Category Archives: The Teenager

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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That’s Dinner Sorted …

dinnerMe and The Teenager were having one of our Kitchen Katch-Ups the other day.

Generally speaking, if I hang out long enough in the kitchen, The Teenager will make an appearance, rummage through the fridge and continue a conversation he may have started a couple of days previously:

‘… and, you know, muvver, it’s fine.’

‘Er, what is?’

He pauses to measure out an exact amount of Shredded Wheat into a bowl, then an exact amount of milk, as dictated by his gym routine plan. Then gulps the whole thing down in three mouthfuls.

‘You know, when you get old? Like, say, 50?’

‘Right. And what’s going to happen then?’

‘I’ll build you a shed?’

‘I don’t need a shed?’

‘D’urrr. Like, a shed at my house? In the garden? You can stay there.’

‘When I’m 50?’

‘Yeah? But, like, if I’m rich and famous, you can have a flat.’

‘Oh, ok then. Thank you. But you know, I’ll probably be just fine at 50. But, um, thanks for thinking of me sweets. Very kind. Anyway, Christmas dinner. We need to decide what we’re having.’

I was poised ready with my pen, trying to shake off images of me trapped in a shed at the grand old age of 50.

‘How about I choose this year?’

‘I really don’t want a strawberry protein shake.’

‘Lol, muvver. You’re funny. I wouldn’t do that to you at Christmas.’

‘What do you fancy then? Turkey? Lamb?’

‘Can I choose? Anything in the world? A day off from my Buff Body Routine?’

‘Um, ok.’

He did.

And so it has come to pass; we will be tucking into Chicago Town pepperoni pizzas, curly fries and garlic dough balls.

I kid you not.

After getting over my initial horror, I thought, ‘Well, Why Not?’ It’ll just be the two of us, we’ve both already had our fill of turkey and we get to do exactly what we want. He’s chosen the food, I’ll choose the telly. And have first dibs on the chocolates, natch.

That sorted, The Teenager continued to rifle the cupboards and sigh loudly. ‘About your shed …’

‘No more talking about sheds. How’s school?’

‘S’fine.’

‘Studying?’

‘S’fine.’

‘You know where I am if you need me, sweets.’

‘Yep. Mum?’

I was braced for the worst. Or worse than pizza on Christmas Day.

He gathered together another bowl of cereal, balanced it in his hand, made to leave the kitchen and said, ‘You’re a great mum, you know. I love you.’

And with that, before I could reply, he had scooted upstairs.

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How We Live Today

how-we-live-todayPeople say the strangest things when you first have a serious illness.

Haven’t we all been promised the earth by those who matter (I’ll be there, just ask). And the moon and sun.

It must be bad?

However, with The Teenager having limited contact with his dad this year (not my choice), raising him has been tough at times, but infinitely rewarding.

Since MS crashed into our lives in 2011, we’ve both altered our perceptions immeasurably. Gone were the  days when I was the parent who did everything. I now needed help.

Thankfully, my friends were on hand. We got through that dreadful time and came through the other side older and wiser.

And now The Teenager is on the threshold of 18.

As in common with any parent of a teenager, I am still failing. Of course. And he has had more than his fair share of challenges – as the single child of a single parent with a serious illness, he has had no one to share the long evenings (and my MS) with. If you don’t count the yells coming from his bedroom, when he has ten kids in there, all playing the same game.

I’ve been reduced to a cash-dispenser and provider of food. And that’s fine. It’s not the fish fingers that worry me, it’s the MS symptoms and how to work them around an Exploring Teenager.

Fatigue. A problem. Before sixth form, I set an alarm, dossing on the sofa and waking up in time for him to come back from school. It’s not so easy now he’s doing his A Levels. He returns at odd hours, shocked at me sleeping.

Nerve pain. A problem. I’m useless after 5pm. I walk funny. I could be seen as embarrassing.

Speech. My very first symptom. I still get tangled up in English when I’m tired, speaking a mish-mash of languages, the hangover of being tri-lingual.

So how do we live now? Precariously. We are forever on watch for the next relapse. I work, study and look after our house and The Teenager. I am trying my very best but the best is often not enough.

I remember saying, back in 2011, that all I wanted was to get The Teenager to University.

I might just manage it.

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Back In The Saddle …

nuggetThe Teenager is back from his last ever school trip, a half-term jaunt to Washington.

Luckily for him, it coincided with my horrendous cold/semi-flu/downright miserable symptoms, so he got away lightly.

After six days of peace and a strange sense of calm at home, he arrived back on Thursday.

Long story short, they really should tear up the alphabet and name the next big hurricane after him – Hurricane Christopher, Extra Strength.

Chaos reigned once more, the bathroom sink was quickly defiled by toothpaste stains, the laundry basket was protesting. The fridge was stripped bare and The Teenager stalked our tiny cottage, bewailing a dire lack of protein.

Life was back to normal.

A couple of days have now passed and it’s like riding a bike – I’m once more used to the texts he sends, despite us being 7 or so metres apart:

‘Hellloooooooo moooommmmaaaa – beans on toast with extra cheese, ta. Love you. xx.’

‘Can I have a tenner for tomorrow? All my friends do. Party.’

‘How many chicken nuggets are in the freezer?’

From my Sofa Command Centre, I fire back replies:

‘Oh, really?’

‘Maybe.’

‘None.’

Come stand-off, he normally treads downstairs and ruffles my hair in a semi-ironic fashion and calls me ‘Mom’ in a fake American accent. It usually works.

In the meantime, I have been feeling very sorry for myself, laying semi-comatose on my sofa. My head has been hammering and I’ve felt like, well … ill. I hate it.

I’ve had to take six whole days off work and have been too ill to even watch Jeremy Kyle, a sure sign that I really am … ill. If I had the energy, I would kick myself. And pop out to buy some Wotsits and Aero Bubbles.

My dissertation is wobbling around my subconsciousness and I know I’m in trouble when I have to thesaurus the word, ‘however’. With the deadline looming, I’m panicking.

All the best writers wobble? And if you’re not the best, you wobble more?

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