Category Archives: The Teenager

And Exhale …

exhaleAfter The Teenager collapsed in June, we were so lucky for him to be referred to a neurologist, thanks to the advice of one of the fabulous MS nurses.

Within the month, I was sitting with him in my usual MS clinic, him fidgeting on his phone, me controlling my breathing.

I had been there just the day before, for an MS nurse appointment, hoping for the results of my latest MRI scan (nothing yet, gah).

We were called through by a neurologist I hadn’t seen before and he instantly put The Teenager at ease. He took a detailed case history then ran him through an extensive round of tests, a little hampered towards the end by The Teenager’s exceptionally ticklish feet.

The upshot is, there is nothing obvious that would point to MS.

I let out the breath I had been holding.

However, there is something a little odd in his presentation so he is being sent for an MRI of his spine. And that’s fine, I can deal with that. I think. The neurologist explained about blood flow through the spinal cord and blockages. It could be a lot of things, but probably not MS.

What can I say? The relief is immense, for both of us. We just needed to know either way. His collapse was unexpected and shocking.

So now we can concentrate on his summer of exploration, that strange suspended time between A levels and University. Before he heads off on one of his many summer trips though, he has my graduation on Monday to sit through …

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Write Of Passage …

signatureWith one signature, that was it. Done.

I had met The Teenager in our local building society after school finished the other day.

At, 17, it was time for him to take control of his savings book, still tucked inside his ‘Children Saver’ folder, complete with a smiling dragon. Previously, he needed both our signatures to access his Christmas and Birthday money, much to his annoyance. And mine, especially when I had to meet him after work to withdraw a fiver for a gaming magazine he absolutely had to have.

We approached the counter, and after much convincing that this 6′ 4” Teenager was in fact 17, we signed the forms, transferred ownership into his name alone and left, leaving behind the smiley dragon folder.

And that was that. I recalled the day we opened the account together – the temper tantrum when he was offered a red dragon money-bank and not the shiny gold one. The negotiations, the store-room rummagings and the crying-hiccups until they found the last gold one. He clasped it in his tiny hands and stopped crying long enough to peer over the counter and rasp a tearful, ‘thank you’.

And there we go – The Teenager now has his own bank account, building society account, National Insurance Number and numerous other bits and bobs. From the Red Book he had as a baby, where percentiles were jotted down and compared with the average, to his GCSE results, he has a trail of paperwork and all the complications that go with it.

I clearly remember my very young son hitching up his dungaree strap and asking me (in nursery!) why his name was so long and why he always ran out of paint when he had to write it across the top of his painting. Simple – Christopher might be his full name, but he could choose what he wanted to be called. He chose Chris (natch) and for a time wanted to be known as ‘Kit’. At that point, he luckily had no idea just how complicated and long his surnames were.

Anyway, today has been a milestone. I’ve started a file for The Teenager, with all his info that I usually file under Family Stuff. It’s a weird separation, but forward-looking. He can take it to University with him, and have everything in one place, until he loses it and I tell him I’ve copied everything, just in case.

So as he inches towards adulthood, I take more and more of a back seat. It’s another stage, successfully navigated. When I was first diagnosed with MS, my only wish was to remain well enough to see him through his teenage years and out into the big wide world.

We’re almost there.

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Letting Go Of The Reins …

mumWhen The Teenager was a toddler, I had one of those Maclaren buggies.

Lightweight and foldable, it was easy to navigate.

Especially for The Toddler, who quickly learned how to propel himself forwards with a sudden thrust, hoist the pram onto his back and toddle away as fast as his little legs could carry him.

We moved on to reins. He ran rings around me, literally, and they were quickly discarded. I was left to dash in all directions, grasping hold of a chubby wrist before he could come to harm or raid a nearby fruit and veg stall.

Now he is approaching 18, I am going through an accelerated crash-course in letting go of the bonded reins. I have taught myself not to grab his hand when we are crossing the road, remind him to brush his teeth or check he has his house-key.

Which is a shame for my spare-key-holder as The Teenager discovered one evening. Having left his key at home and unable to rouse me by fishing an array of plastic bottles from our recycling bags and chucking them at my window – I sleep spectacularly soundly – he called my friend who cursed the entire 40 mile round trip to let The Teenager into our house at 11pm.

This week, The Teenager went to a concert in Bristol, technically a whole other country away. I asked if he had the tickets for him and his friends. I queried his departure time. Asked if he had bus fare. Did he need a snack for the journey? A blankie? A teddy?

I joke, but when The Teenager sat me down for a gentle word, I listened. He is effectively a grown-up, although the youngest in his school year (I don’t hear the end of this – why he couldn’t have been born a couple of days later – to make him the oldest – or a few months earlier).

I explained to him that after almost 18 years of caring for someone, ensuring their very survival (a bit of drama – tick), it would inevitably be difficult to surrender the care role as quickly as he was assuming independence.

We bantered back and forwards, working out new ways of talking to each other. He agreed not to laugh at my new glasses (for reading only, not because I’m old – or maybe a tiny bit old) and I agreed to relax about his movements. I realised I didn’t need to know everything any more. I wasn’t arranging play dates, he was arranging days/evenings out for him and his mates. He could handle it. And so could I.

It’s a joy to witness a child you have nurtured blossom into adulthood and I’m in awe of The Teenager’s drive, passions and go-getting attitude. Despite everything we have been through these last few years, he is turning into an incredible person (I am of course biased).

His teddy (it’s actually a yellow duck, called ‘Ducky’) is now safely tucked away, his job done.

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Food For Thought

chickenMe and The Teenager try to go out for a meal every couple of weeks.

It’s a chance to catch up, do some mom-and-son bonding and generally put the world to rights.

So yesterday, armed with a 40% off voucher, we headed to our local Harvester.

Not the most glamorous of locations but it suited The Teenager down to the ground, given he’s on a training programme for which he wolfs down 5,000 calories a day (he has an app, he counts them).

I probably eat the same amount, minus the high intensity exercise, but at least we have something in common.

Anyway, we settled down in a booth and read over the wipe-clean menu. I checked out the low-calorie options, dismissing them quickly. A burger. With fries and a huge dollop of mayo. Sorted.

I asked The Teenager what he fancied.

He looked up from the menu, snapped it shut and yelled,

‘Chicken! A whole chicken!’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah. And some ribs as a side. Just the little ones. I’m not, like, greedy. Check out my pecs mum!’

He flexed his muscles for me to admire, tapped his stats into his apps and wandered off to the salad bar, bringing back five rolls. He ate them and went back for five more.

I played with my diced beetroot and grated carrots.

Our meals arrived and he duly took a photo and uploaded it to social media before tucking in.

‘So’, I began, ‘how’s the studying going?’

‘Can’t talk. Eating.’

‘Ah. Chicken looks nice dear.’

Within five minutes, there was a plate of bones in front of him. He scooted off to refill his free refill glass for the fourth time.

‘So. How’s the studying going?’

‘Good, ta.’

‘I was thinking about trying that fasting diet. You know, to shift the pounds. What do you think? You’re the weight-loss expert.’

‘Mum. No. No way.’

‘Why not?’

‘Ok, so you take in 500 calories. You’ve got no energy. But ….’ He paused. ‘Like, d’uh, you have MS? Bit stupid, no?’

‘Ah, I see. Good point.’

‘Mum, you know when I’m a millionaire and I buy you a house, or a big shed, and I go round the world and stuff?’

‘Erm, yup?’

‘Well, I’ve worked out how to do it.’

Silicon Valley? Inventor? Rugby player?’

‘I’m going to become a … competitive eater.’

‘Right.’

‘You know, there’s loads of people on YouTube. They make a fortune. Did you see how fast I ate that chicken? Did you?’

‘Well, yes?’

‘Google it. There’s a restaurant near us. Going to start there.’

I googled it. There’s just one problem.

‘It says here you’ve got to eat everything, everything, including all the lettuce, tomato and onions. Lol.’

‘Mum, don’t say lol.’

‘You don’t eat salad? Bae.’

‘Mum, don’t say bae. Or peng or dench.’

‘Just saying. Groovy.’

‘Mum, I feel a bit ill. I need to get home before my stomach explodes.’

We left. He groaned in the car all the way home.

Until next time …

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Is The Hurt Worth It?

wallThe Teenager found out that his dad has spent the New Year in America.

Today. Two days later.

I only heard this from The Teenager through texts. His dad has yet to call me to explain his change in circumstances – which, if social media is to believed, goes back months and may involve a permanent move.

It takes two parents to raise a child, no matter what the circumstances. Right?

Our house is furnished entirely from Gumtree bargains and cast-offs. The goodwill of friends have enabled me to paint my kitchen and given me my bed. And The Teenager’s.

For the last 17 years, planning my working day has taken on Herculean proportions; lists, more lists and bagfuls of stuff. Even working in a low-paid, dead-end job meant endless mornings of rousing The Teenager at 5.30 am and taking him to my mum’s house, handing over his school uniform and a sleepy child.

Working with a child meant low paid jobs and always being available for the latest crisis – nits, bullying, Parents Evening as the perennial lone parent. This is precisely why I took on low paid work. There was no alternative.

Meanwhile, The Teenager’s father, unencumbered with childcare, or indeed raising a child, rose swiftly through his chosen profession. The Teenager’s room at his house in London wasn’t his room, it was a spare room, his toys pushed away under the bed in plastic boxes between visits.

And now, while I have been renting a cottage for 12 years (after spending the first four years of The Teenager’s life in penury at my mother’s house) and hoping for continuity for The Teenager, I learn that not only does his father own a flat in London, and has built a house in the Carribean, he has also made plans to move to America.

I used to ignore the blinding obvious. We both stood up in court – me having fled with our son, aged 10 months. I left the house. Big mistake. He had a brilliant barrister. But it was only later I found out just how big a mistake this was.

What can I say to The Teenager? Simply, the truth, no matter how much money, no matter which exotic locations, the absolute joy of bringing him up will always usurp that. I am blessed. Me and The Teenager have been through turbulent times, but we have always got through them with love and support.

For me, that is priceless and beyond compare. I remember telling The Teenager’s father I had been diagnosed with MS, four years ago. He swore he would help out more, be there through the hard Campath times.

You guessed it, it didn’t happen, if anything, contact has became even more sporadic, until it’s petered out to nothing.

Despite it all. The upset. The rage. My focus is upon The Teenager.

It has always been and always will be.

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