Category Archives: The Teenager

Lots of Regrets

regretsWith just over a week to go until I take The Teenager to University, it’s a curious time.

It feels somewhat like suspended animation, this period between A levels and the big, wide world.

He has the makings of an independent life packed into three huge Ikea blue bags with more to come.

He’s here, then he’s not, dashing off to music festivals, tent and sleeping bag strapped together, only stopping to load up on fresh laundry and food that magically appears in the kitchen.

I bitterly regret the fact that MS came in to his life just as he was starting high school; as he was growing and exploring, he witnessed my world shrinking. Me, the stable, always-there parent who had criss-crossed the world several times over and had the stories to prove it. The illness was swift and brutal.

His pet hate was seeing me asleep on the sofa, so I tried my hardest to set alarms, sit bolt upright and quickly look at my scribbled lists, reminding me of who had argued with which kid, teacher’s names, which ingredients to get for the cookery lesson. My first major relapse, the one that affected my speech, didn’t help. When you can’t even string a sentence together, life is frightening.

Eventually, we laughed about it and even today, The Teenager still does a remarkably good impression of me back then – talking English with a German syntax, chucking verbs to the end of sentences, with a huge dash of nonsense thrown in.

Life became a battle of lists, remembering and alarms. I’ve mentioned it before, but finding him brushing his teeth with tears rolling down his cheeks killed me inside. He hated what MS had done and what it represented. He became used to the tiredness, the stumblings, the smashed cups, but it was still a volatile force that threatened his routine.

Of course, life for both of us would have been a lot easier, had my ex-husband stepped up to the plate. At first, he was assuredly positive. He vowed to take on more responsibility, especially as I was undergoing strong treatment at the time, Camapth, which essentially leaves you without an immune system for at least six weeks.

Reassured, I went for my first treatment. My ex had The Teenager for three days after the treatment, which lasted five days. The second time, I was on my own. The third, I made my own arrangements. Luckily, I didn’t catch an infection.

Strangely, from the moment my ex-husband said he would help out more, he ‘helped out’ a lot less. Aside from the fact that looking after your child for two days out of thirty shouldn’t be seen as ‘helping out’, it makes me chuckle ironically when I think about the amount of times I took The Teenager to town as a young child, ready to meet his dad off the train, only to have a text message saying he had a cold, or was unwell, and unable to come through. At the last minute.

Perhaps he was too occupied getting his second house in Barbados built? Quite possibly. But having had to live with my mother for four years and rent for fourteen, I wouldn’t know.

Me and The Teenager have battled MS over the last six years, for good and bad. The bad times have been horrendous, the good, glorious. He is a caring, independent, go-getting kid, despite everything thrown at him.

My only wish is that he will thrive despite MS. And, I think he will.

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Trolley Wars

trolleyMe and The Teenager joined thousands of other mums and Uni-bound kids at Ikea yesterday.

Each pair had a trolley, a long list and a dismal vibe of wanting to be anywhere but here.

But we were, so we rolled our sleeves up.

We’d discussed our tactics in the car – bathroom stuff, bedroom stuff and kitchen stuff. Easy.

Except Ikea doesn’t work like that. Bathmats, towels and flannels downstairs, loo brush upstairs. Despite this, we executed a fairly neat trolley dash, grabbing most of the list with one sweep of the Market Place. But then we went round and round and round and round looking for the hard-to-find items, which were probably cunningly concealed so we would buy more candles and mini vases.

Despite our best efforts, we came away with no baking trays. Roasting tins? Abundant. Roasting ceramic dishes? Loads. We began to flag and that’s when the niggles started.

‘That’s not a potato masher.’

‘It is. Kind of a modern take on one.’

‘It’s … squiggly.’

‘If it mashes your potatoes, it’s a masher. Trust me on this one.’

‘What duvet cover do you want?’


‘Can you get off your phone for like, one second?’


I chose both sets in grey. Same for his towels, bath mat and flannels.

‘Oven glove?’ said The Teenager.

‘Really? Even I don’t have one?’

‘It’s on the list. Need one.’


‘Fine. Which pillows? Put your head on this. Then this one. Firm? Or soft?’

‘You serious? Can we get a hotdog now?’

We eventually joined the huge queues of similarly distressed people, shuffling forward inch by inch. Once we reached the check-out, I packed, obviously. Three massive blue Ikea bags later, we joined another queue for hotdogs before realising that yep, it was long, but every single person was ordering for twenty (slight exaggeration). We left.

And joined another queue at McDonalds, round the corner. As you do. One happy teenager later, filled with his protein and chemical quotient for the day, we drove home.

‘It’s been nice spending the day with you, sweets’, I said.

‘You too, muvver. Gimme a lift to my friend’s later?’


‘It’s great being an adult, mum’, he said.

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He Got Wings …

wingsOk, so I’ve always been fairly sanguine about The Teenager leaving home.

I felt so proud that he was becoming more independent and ready to take the next step in life.

Likewise, I had never felt that as a mother, I’d lost my identity or a sense of who I was underneath the daily child-rearing.

So when I waved him, his tent and an early entry pass off to the Reading Festival on Wednesday morning, I was fine. I went to work. I came home. I tripped over the cat. The usual. I made dinner. Then I burst into tears.

A wave of emotion punched me smack in the solar plexus. This was it. 18 years, done. Finito.

It wasn’t so much the empty house; this has been happening with increasing regularity over the last year. It wasn’t the reduced shopping order I put in with Tesco, devoid of crisps, gallons of milk and cereal bars. It wasn’t even the thought of having a full night’s sleep, without one ear listening out for the key in the front door in the early hours of the morning.

It was simply the realisation that my role in his first 18 years is finished. 18 years as a definitively single parent, the last six of which were clouded with MS, has been the best of times and the worst of times. As it has ended, I can see now that no matter how prepared I think I am, there is without doubt a sense of finality and a period of adjustment.

Perhaps it’s because everything has happened at once – he had his exam results  and University place confirmed on the 17th of August, turned 18 on the 21st and headed off to Reading for five nights on the 23rd. In less than three weeks, I will be dropping him off at University.

I searched ’empty nest’, only to throw up advice aimed at couples – you’ll have time to reconnect! This is about you and your partner now! Make the most of being child-free! In contrast, as a footnote, ‘if you are a single parent, you may feel very depressed (sad face)’. And even worse, ‘if you are the single parent to an only child, you’ll feel doubly bereft (very sad face)’.

Well, no, I don’t. I don’t feel bereft as such. 18 years of doing something, being responsible for another person’s life is a big task. When it ends, there’s bound to be a shock to the system?

Other parents have chuckled when I’ve mentioned it – he won’t be gone for long, watch out for the piles of laundry, you’re always a parent. Yep, and gladly so. We just have to formulate our new relationship – far more hands off and way more being the constant, behind the scenes presence in his life.

Anyway, day three of The Teenager being away and me and the cat are doing just fine. I’m in a new rhythm now and I’m excited about both our futures. Horizons are widening.

Bring it on …

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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?’


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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