Category Archives: The Teenager

Farewell To The Teenager, You’ve Been Amazing

If-I-could-I-would-give-you-the-world

I started this blog back in the Bad Old Dark Days of 2012.

Just diagnosed with MS after long, agonising months of full-blown symptoms, The Teenager was also at the start of High School.

We were yet to face the full force of my eventual legal employment battle, although the bullying I was enduring at work was horrific.

I had to squeeze in my first Alemtuzumab treatment when The Teenager was on holiday with his father, and I had less than 48 hours to recover and appear ‘mum’ before he came home. It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work. Three times in total.

Looking back, we both had to grow up pretty quickly, The Teenager a lot more so than me. I was/am a single divorced parent, shouldering the vast majority of care. He was vulnerable, unsure of his place in the world. The once active parent he was accustomed to was a distant memory as I struggled with ever-worsening mobility.

And that’s the thing – this blog has always been about both of us; MS does not exist in a vacuum – it touches everyone around you. We argued, fell out, sulked, argued some more, but ultimately, we always met somewhere in the middle, after discussion, time and a lot of readjustment. I was adamant that his childhood would be as minimally disturbed as possible. A big ask.

Readers who have followed our story from the beginning will remember the School Uniform Wars, his very short-lived job as a newspaper boy, the endless rugby mud, his tantrums and the moments of blinding self-awareness. Our cottage, our cats and the low ceilings (he’s now well over six foot tall) have all featured, and will hopefully continue to do so.

He came with me to my first march against austerity, although a little embarrassed. He’s been to award ceremonies for our blog in London and visited Amsterdam twice to take part in a hack with MS firmly at it’s centre. He took his Google Maps and aged 15, worked his way around the Dutch city so well that he guided a bunch of mates a couple of years later for a mini-break.

I could go on, but I won’t as he would be modest. He knows he’s amazing and he knows that you guys know it too. We sometimes posted queries, asking for advice and you answered quickly and with a lot of common sense, especially when he was going through a really hard time a couple of years back.

So here we are. August. The Boss’s birthday, then mine, then Christopher’s. It will be odd not to refer to The Teenager. Someone wisely suggested calling him the Ex-Teenager and I quite like that.

On the cusp of 20, the only thing I can do is thank him for being so open to new experiences, so willing to go through difficult times and come out the other end wiser, more confident and a son I am so very, very proud of.

When Is A Teenager Not A Teenager?

I think it’s when they ask you, in all seriousness, for a spare dish to cook lasagne in (from scratch) to take back to Uni after the Easter holiday .

Or when they finally learn the point of coat-hangers, and how to work the vacuum. They even make their bed, this strange, unfamiliar breed.

The Teenager is twenty this year. It hasn’t sunk in. I’m of course nowhere near old enough to have a child of that age.

It’s been a mixed joy to have him back for the Easter break. My heart lifts when he remembers to lock the front door, then sinks when I come down to a kitchen full of cereal bowls and coffee stains in the morning. If I’m reading in bed at 9pm, he now knocks my bedroom door instead of crashing through it like he used to, before bouncing on my bed, making the cat fly right off.

He remembers to open the bathroom window after a shower and (sometimes) remembers to hang the bath mat back up. He’s airing his bedroom (gasp). Mind you, I did tell him I would hang him outside it from his ankles if he didn’t, as I’ve had it repainted three times. It worked!

In short, he is growing up. He’s understanding real life.

However, there does tend to be some kind of invisible force-field at my front door, which, when he passes through it, he reverts, in some ways, back to a school-age teenager. Take the ‘Actimel Problem’. I buy bunches of them, probiotics, one a day. He takes eight a day. I buy low-carb bread and ham. He eats all the bread and leaves the ham. If he runs out of shampoo, he doesn’t think to replenish from the supply under the sink, he uses my very, very, very treat-worthy products on my shower shelf (we have a shelf each). You see my problem.

Yet in the midst of this transition from Teenager (and we have been through ‘A Lot’) to adult, it’s heartening to see the change in him. He now has a Scandinavian-heritage jawline. He speaks in really grown-up sentences about really important things. We have the most amazing conversations. He is tall, overpowering our tiny cottage with his welcome presence.

When I look back over the last twenty years, I’m stunned that I could have produced such a confidant, happy, well-adjusted human being. It’s astounding in some ways, considering what he’s been through. The abject fear of losing the care of his main parent, his worry for his own MS legacy, given I was a second-generation MS’er. He’s bucked the trend.

After two years of adjusting to a new life in the big, wide world, he is doing just fine. We’ve had our blips, our terrible moments, but thankfully I have been close enough to be there quickly.

I’m always going to be there for him, but for now, I think he’s doing just fine. He’s amazing.

Back On Track …

These last few months have been heartbreaking.

The Teenager has struggled with a good few issues, but with a lot of support he now seems to be back to his usual positive self.

All your amazing blog comments and tweets really sustained him through some pretty dark days and he’s told me numerous times how grateful and completely overwhelmed he is that people took the time to write to him.

And not only that, most of you have watched him grow up through this blog and I know you’re all rooting for him. He can’t thank you enough.

I spoke to him the other day and to hear the happiness in his voice was fantastic. From feeling helpless, and watching as he crumbled has been truly dreadful. Being a parent is beyond painful at times.

But ultimately, we both have only one goal in mind – to rise above the constraints MS may have placed on us.

He is in a brilliant house-share (newly-renovated, it puts my humble cottage to shame), is eating well, exercising and studying. Through all the turmoil, he has never locked himself away, no matter how bad he felt. His determination, at his age, is remarkable.

I just wanted to give you a quick update and apologise for not blogging recently – and to thank you all so, so much for being there for him when he needed it the most.

Tagged

Back Then, And Now …

In 2012, my only wish was to see The Teenager through High School.

Forward six years and we made it – it wasn’t easy, far from it. At times, it was soul-destroying and took us both to the edge of what we could reasonably cope with.

Yet no child can go through this hideous process without scars, and The Teenager has them in abundance. The support he could have received was patchy at best, mostly non-existent.

He wasn’t a ‘Child Carer’, at risk or falling behind at school, yet I could see the difference in him, and we navigated our way through the years bit by bit.

He is now at University, but struggling in his own way.

It would be great if you guys could send him messages of encouragement through this difficult time.

Tagged , ,

It Takes A Village …

MS is hard enough on your own body and soul, but witnessing your child coming to terms with it in a parent is heart-wrenching.

Up until he entered High School, me and The Teenager did a whole lot of things together; I was forever picking up leaflets, magazines, nabbing numbers and ideas from flyers.

We fought dinosaurs, made shields in a castle and painted pottery.

I sewed badges on swim bags, then faithfully unpicked and re-sewed them on to new bags. I bought uniforms, day trips and packed the lunches.

I stood at the rugby sidelines weekend after weekend, freezing cold, following him to tournaments miles away, in the rain, without ever mastering the rules of the game. I picked him up after injuries and faced the long journey home, but with a medal or mini-cup clasped in his hands as he fell asleep in the back seat.

I’m so glad I had that time as everything was set to change.

Just as he put on his brand-new High School uniform, MS hit. His once-active parent was more often than not going through relapse after relapse.

We factored in three Alemtuzumab treatments to coincide with his summer holidays – after coming home with no immune system, I had less than two days each time to be back to ‘normal’ after he spent time with his father.

It takes at least a month to recover an immune system.

The Teenager saw a lot and he didn’t like it – the enforced sleep, the early bedtimes of his main parent, when I should have been the one getting him to sleep.

The utter fatigue and lack of immune system floored me. Luckily, kind parents filled in a lot of gaps, taking him to rugby, standing in on Parent’s Evening, inviting him along to sun-drenched trips to the beach.

But I cried; it should have been me. Yet I was so tired, I couldn’t get my head around it. Instead, I tried to ‘stay present’. If I could not move from the sofa, I would at least try to remember everything that was going on.

And now we have The Teenager at University, having the absolute time of his life.

It’s not just thanks to me, it’s thanks to friends and family, everyone who has ever followed him on my blog, or who has met him in real life and chatted with him like old friends, and to everyone who has ever made him feel that he is not alone.

Significant people may be absent from his life, but he knows that he has a whole support network to call upon.

Watching him at an MS filming session last weekend, I was stunned to hear him speak so coherently and poignantly about his experiences and as soon as I can, I will share it with you.

In 2012, all I asked for was to be well enough to see my son off to University. I firmly believe that thanks to everyone here, he made it.

I certainly didn’t do it on my own.

Tagged , , ,