Category Archives: The Teenager

The Teenager Turns 18 (At Last …)

18On August 11th 1999, there was a total solar eclipse.

It’s seared into my memory as I was heading for my final scan, heavily pregnant.

I was standing outside Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London, mesmerised by the encroaching darkness.

And then, it was light. The sun shone through and everyone blinked at each other, as if to say, ‘did that just happen?’  It was eerie and exhilarating at the same time.

Ten days later, I gave birth. I’d like to say I breathed along to whale music and had my back massaged with essential oils. However, it was perhaps a portent of things to come when the baby refused to budge – they burst the waters, they used an epidural, they pleaded, they prodded around, they used forceps, then finally Ventouse. I was surrounded by medical students. And my baby was born a Cone-Head.

In the post-birth ward later that day, battered and bruised by the whole experience, he wailed the loudest, keeping every single other baby awake. I put his first nappy on backwards. He lay in his Perspex box, peering at me. I fell in love, Cone-Head and all. He was adorable.

And tomorrow he turns 18. A legal adult, ready to leave home in three weeks.

He’s always felt the injustice of being by far the youngest in his school year, so tomorrow cannot come quick enough for him. As a parent, I think it’s no bad thing. It can be hard to be the first at everything. His so-called disadvantage has given him a little breathing space.

Anyway, looking back over the last 18 years, my first thought is, ‘Blimey, I’m old, about to become an empty-nester and probably middle-aged’. The Teenager asked me the other day if I would be ok living on my own, when he goes to University:

‘Oh, absolutely. I’m going to join a yoga class, perhaps pottery and maybe go on one of those little coach trips to the seaside. I’ll be fine.’

Is The Teenager ready to be an adult? Am I ready to don a waterproof jacket and take a coach and flask of tea to Weston-Super-Mare?

I think this will be a whole new adventure, for both of us.

But for now, especially for you guys who have followed us from the beginning of this blog, way back in October 2012, The Teenager will officially be an adult in just over 8 hours. The Teenager has a countdown going and I’m reminded every half hour or so …

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The Teenager Is Off To University!

awesomeNever have I been more proud of The Teenager than I am today.

He got his exam results and has secured his place at University.

When MS first raised its ugly head, he had just started out on his high school journey. When I think back to what he had to endure, I could cry.

He witnessed my first proper relapse in all its frightening, bewildering intensity. He saw me lying on the sofa, hour after hour, unable to carry out the most basic tasks. He asked around his friends for lifts to rugby, to football. My friend went in my place to Parent’s Evening.

He knew about the vicious bullying I was experiencing in work, culminating in my dismissal for MS. He heard about the legal proceedings, in amongst worsening relapses. And all the while he was trying to forge his own identity as a Teenager. A hefty burden at the best of times.

It’s always been just me and him, since he was a baby, and I’ve always tried to be independent, fearless and positive. MS changed all that. We both took a huge dip. It knocked us sideways. It took a while (years), but we got through it and we came out stronger.

Regular readers will know him really well – you’ll have heard about our fair share of ups and downs, run-ins and tantrums. I hope you’ve seen though, as I have, how he has grown in to quite an incredible young adult.

I know most parents boast, but if there’s ever a blog post for me to do that, it’s this one. He’s a totally amazing individual, with a real sense of who he is. He’s considerate yet determined. All fears I had that he would internalise the emotions he was experiencing with the MS have been laid to rest. I can only watch in wonder at how he goes out and grabs the world with both hands.

We had many quick text and phone chats this morning about his impending move to Bristol (according to The Teenager, ‘far enough away to be an adult, close enough to be handy’). I’ve been issued strict instructions for Drop-Off Day:

‘Mum, right, you can take me there with all my stuff and help sort my room out. You’ll make it nice?’

‘Of course, dear.’

‘Then I’ll have to say goodbye. You won’t cry, will you?’

‘If I do, I’ll do it in the car, don’t worry’.

‘Good. ‘Cause then I have to go to the kitchen and meet everyone else’.

‘I know. Do you think you’ll need an egg timer?’

‘Muuuuuuuum?! I’ve got a list of stuff to get, like don’t worry’.

‘Ok. How many shower gels do you reckon you’ll need?’

‘Muuuuuuuuuum’.

Today is beautiful – we made it. He made it. And in a way, The Teenager had a far bigger mountain to climb than me. I’d lived my life before MS came. He had it flung at him far too young. But he took it, dealt with it and succeeded despite it.

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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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