Tag Archives: The Teenager

Teendults – A Survival Guide

The Teenager is home for over three months now Uni has finished for the Summer break.

He sent me an extensive shopping list in advance – ‘lots of protein, fruit, veg, rice, protein bars, frozen fruit, milk, eggs, bit more protein’.

Just to be on the safe side, I added extra loo roll (he’s the Houdini of Andrex), more toothbrushes (he chews them), gallons of shower gel (he swims in the stuff) and some more protein.

If I’d thought about it, I should have sent a list back, something like this:

  • Take your key when you go out.
  • Change the loo roll when it’s empty (handy hint, there’s more next to the loo).
  • Take your key when you go out.
  • Turn the oven off after cooking your usual six salmon steaks.
  • Take your key when you go out.

And that’s pretty much it. The key issue is a biggie; he’s lost more keys than I can count, forgets to take it or just seems surprised to find it in his pocket after hammering on the door at 1am.

On one memorable occasion, I woke up to find his bed empty and my front garden littered with plastic bottles and newspapers. He’d forgotten his key and in his endearing wisdom, decided to chuck the contents of our recycling bag at my bedroom window in the hope of waking me up.

I eventually tracked him down to a friend’s sofa and had a little chat about the aerodynamics and weight of newspapers.

And so it was I took my friend for the journey and we picked up The Teenager plus all his worldly possessions and trekked back home. The cat rolled her eyes and scarpered, used to a more sedate pace of life in his absence.

It’s strange welcoming back an adult, after dropping off a boy at Uni last Autumn. We’re both adults now, yet somehow there’s the maternal temptation to revert to type.

I remind him to take his coat when it’s chilly. He reminds me he’s an adult. I press an apple into his hand before he goes out. He places it back in the fruit bowl. He’s not the only one rolling his eyes. And so it goes back and forth.

I think though, that we’re getting there. I’m getting used to him singing in the shower again; some days Beatles hits, others Oasis. The thumping as he gets dressed (no idea). The evidence of overnight fridge-foraging when I come downstairs in the morning (follow the crumbs to the empty packets).

Some things never change though. One evening last week, I resisted the temptation to ask if he had everything before he went out – key, wallet, fully-charged phone (hah!). I waved him off, feeling quite pleased with myself, and settled down to some serious Danish drama on telly.

A minute later, a knock on the door. The Teenager, looking sheepish.

‘Forgot my key’.

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How Little Is Too Much?

This blog will be six years old in October. Six!

When I first started firing out my random thoughts to the blogosphere, I knew I’d be buried in amongst the millions of other blogs out there.

I just wanted to write, get all the confusing thoughts down, in the small hope that someone, somewhere would understand.

I blogged anonymously, as I was experiencing horrendous workplace bullying due to my MS and had a feeling it would end up as a legal matter, which it did, after I was fired suddenly.

I took comfort in the cloak of anonymity, writing painfully honest posts about anything and everything as me and The Teenager adjusted to a whole new reality. And the reward was an incredible amount of support that flowed back to us. We chewed over problems, discussed different options through comments feedback and Twitter.

In short, my blog became a vital lifeline.

You guys saw me through Alemtuzumab treatment, three times. The subsequent thyroid problems. The weight gain. Adjusting to a more limited but still fun way of living. You generously shared your own experiences and advice about symptoms, getting through my studies, cheering me on all the way.

You also watched The Teenager grow up, which is particularly special to me – as someone once told me, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and despite being alone, your input saw both of us through some pretty turbulent times. Regular readers might still remember his School Uniform Protest.

Even though he’s now at University, he still asks me to post this photo or that comment on Twitter – he’s got a following all of his own and I know it means a lot to him.

The blog is now read in over 150 countries, the latest being Rwanda last week (hi!). I’m absolutely delighted. And when people buy my book and tell me it’s helped them through hard times, I grin for days. So many of you have emailed me directly and become firm friends.

Closer to home, and perhaps inevitably, now I blog under my real name, my rambling thoughts are now read by people I know. Which puts a whole different slant on things. It’s the same as leaving an open diary on the table.

Although my recent posts are still personal and open, I’m aware that I hold something back each time. I go so far, then stop. I’ve been mulling this over and over in my mind and am still unsure what to do.

Should I just not worry, go for it, life is short and ultimately, what the hell? Can you be held to account for what you feel? Or should I still temper what I write, creating more even-handed posts?

As always, I’d love your advice …

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Always On Call …

The Teenager has always been fiercely independent – give him a phone charger and he’ll travel anywhere, talk to anyone and generally find his own way back home.

He’s settled into University life as if born to it and has found his feet exceptionally quickly.

So I’m always a little thrown by random texts I get from him, at the oddest times.

Take Friday for example. I’d mentioned to him I’d be at an MS Council meeting 60 miles away and staying overnight. There’s a get-together in the hotel in the evening to meet other people affected by MS in the surrounding area and it’s great to see new faces.

I’d settled down on a squishy sofa and was having a brilliant discussion with two lovely people, and , well, whaddaya know – up pops a text at 7.30 – ‘Should I get bleach to clean my toilet?

Umm. Ok. I replied, he indeed should and use it a couple of times a week. I then rejoined the conversation and picked up the thread.

Another text pinged – ‘How do you do it?’

I texted back about squirting it under the rim and making sure he had a loo brush. He did, so that’s good. I should know, I bought it for him along with a million other items on his IKEA Student Survival Shopping List, an event I’m still recovering from.

And that was that. Until the next time.

What the toilet bleach conversation showed me is that you just never, ever, ever stop being an always-available parent. Which is kind of lovely. It’s nice to help fill in the gaps he’s finding as he learns what it is to be an adult, bleach and all.

I like the fact he knows he’ll get a quick answer from me, even if it’s an ‘I don’t know’, as in one of his other texts recently, ‘Have you heard of the band Royal Blood?’ Nope. Or when he just wants to say something, such as, ‘I made chicken katsu curry. From scratch.’ Proud.

When it comes to priorities in my life, he will always come first, no matter what MS throws at me. He knows that even if I’m sprawled on the sofa, virtually unable to move for fatigue, I will make sure my phone is by my side.

Looking back, I can’t say he had it easy with MS. It hit just as he entered high school and we went through some pretty dark times, but we did it. First and foremost, MS was my battle, and I wanted to protect him from the worst of it, as is right. His childhood and growing up feeling secure and loved were top of the list.

So, I love his random texts, his song suggestions, his little remarks about how his latest essay is going. I’m involved in his life, but not overly so and that’s the way it should be.

P.S. Has anyone heard of Royal Blood?

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A Date With Fate

People often say, if you think too hard about the best time to have a child, you never will.

It’s the same with car crashes and disabilities.

If you’d asked my 23-year-old self if I had the time and resilience to be involved in a near-fatal car accident, necessitating six months off work, I’d have laughed. But it happened.

Forward 14 years and if you’d asked me on Friday 24th June 2011 whether – as a divorced mother of an 11 year old – I was ready for a serious, degenerative illness to suddenly pop up and change my life forever, I’d have laughed my head off. I had far too much to do, how could I possibly fit it in?

Yet it happened – I went to bed that evening as usual and woke up in a completely different body, one I barely recognised.

The surprise element in these three scenarios can be overwhelming for people like me, who think they knew where they’re going.

Just like that, you don’t.

I often think back to that fateful evening and wonder if I truly appreciated my life, as it was, when I closed my book, fluffed up my pillow and turned out the light. I don’t think I did.

Sure, I had a plan, and it was a good one – possibilities were opening up as The Teenager entered high school and the tethers of childcare were loosening. I would also lose that extra weight, learn how to apply eyeliner and rustle up a mean Martini.

MS hit and I went under. For two years. It was almost as if I refused to believe that it had actually happened. I was grieving for what could have been and what should have been. It was all so … unfair.

It’s only now I realise that it wasn’t so much the MS that rocked my life (**** happens?), but my inability to recognise that life had changed and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. A bit like the car crash.

Almost seven years on from that day, I am serene, calm and accepting.

Nah, not really.

But – I’m much more flexible in my approach to life, unlike my body, which is often rigid, wracked with weird vibrations and does the strangest things.

So many awful things have happened since MS but none now have the power to shock me quite as much. When life events drop down the shock-scale, it’s rather nice. When MS happens, what can be worse?

Oh, wait, I forgot about The Department of Work and Pensions …

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Look Back In Anger?

tattooThe Teenager had a tattoo on his 18th birthday, and he invited me along.

It felt weird to hold his hand (his grip is pretty strong), and get him through it, just as the midwife had held my hand almost exactly 18 years previously.

He’d thought long and hard and we’d held discussions for well over a year beforehand. Did he know it was a lifelong commitment? The pain? But he was adamant, and I eventually backed him completely.

He wanted his friend’s name and date of birth. And death; he died aged 17 of cancer and The Teenager wanted to symbolically take him along on all his adventures that his friend hadn’t lived to see.

Fast-forward five months and The Teenager (plus a huge bag of laundry) landed back home again for a second tattoo, on the other arm. Same discussions, same concerned parent. But he’d booked an appointment, paid a deposit and came home wrapped in cling film.

The result was a tribute to the grandfather he never knew and my dad, who died aged 35 from complications arising from his MS. I’m still pretty stunned.

I remember being so angry, back when I was first diagnosed, that I would never have the chance to talk to him, to share our experiences. I felt wholly, absolutely, alone. I was four when he died, so I don’t remember much about him, just snapshots, which may or not be constructed through other people’s observations.

Above all, I feel incredibly sad that in less than a generation, things could have been so different for him. I also feel moved beyond words that The Teenager has created a permanent memorial. He had the words ‘Live Forever’ tattooed underneath, a fitting tribute to a man who was apparently so full of life, and a nod to The Teenager’s favourite band.

Before I veer into maudlin territory, I am full of admiration for The Teenager’s determination to rise above the experience of having a mum with MS. He’s been through hell, all through his secondary school education, yet he has come out fighting and is passionate about justice and caring for others.

In short, I am proud.

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