Tag Archives: university

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?’

‘D’mind.’

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

‘S’importan’.

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.’

‘Grey?’

‘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?’

‘Gah.’

‘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 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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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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Hurdy Gurdy, Bork Bork Bork …

hurdy gurdyI am teaching The Teenager how to cook.

He’s quite possibly flying the nest next year and bit by bit, I’m teaching him valuable life skills, such as:

  • If you hang your towel up after a shower rather than leaving it in a heap on the floor, it will dry!
  • If you lock the door after coming in late, we might not be burgled!
  • If you bring the tower of bowls and plates down from your bedroom, you’ll make your long-suffering mum very happy!

It’s taking a while and we still haven’t cracked the loo-roll dilemma (i.e. replace an empty one) or the milk carton angst (when it’s finished, it doesn’t go back in the fridge, d’uh).

But I live in eternal hope.

Today, he was deep in thought, sprawled out on the sofa, fingers flying across his iphone keypad as I was trying to type up some uni notes for my first dissertation meeting.

‘Mum. Muuum. Mum. How many calories in an egg?’ he asked.

‘Dunno.’

‘Four eggs?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Three eggs?’

‘I. Don’t. Know. Why?’

‘Well, I went to the gym this morning – see, look, muscles (obligatory muscle flex), I’ve got 1367 calories left to eat. Minus the protein shake. Plus the jelly snake I ate on the way home from school.’

‘That’s nice dear.’

‘Muuuuum?’

‘What?’

‘You busy?’

Noooooo, why?’

‘It says here on my app that I should cook scrambled eggs with four slices of brown bread, no butter. How do I make it?’

I talked him through it. Twice.

‘I hate cracking eggs.’

‘Most people do.’

‘Can you help? Pwwwweeeaaassse?’

I abandoned my not-going-anywhere proposal, sighed deeply for dramatic effect and joined him in the kitchen. A carton of eggs lay decimated on the counter. There were four left un-bashed.

I demonstrated what he had to do and he massacred the remaining ones into a bowl.

‘Now whisk.’

‘Am whisking.’

‘Put your bread in the toaster. Heat your frying pan up, put in a drop of oil and wait for it to get warm. There. Now!’

‘Use the spatula. Spatula! Not the ladle. No, and not that one, that’s a potato masher.’

‘Mum, spatula is a funny word, isn’t it?’

‘Erm, yes, I guess so.’

I showed him how to sweep the eggs gently around the pan, then handed control to him. The eggs were pummelled into submission, not daring to become anything else but scrambled eggs.

Finally, all was assembled. He splattered the resulting meal with tomato sauce, grabbed a drink and ate it all within two minutes.

‘Mum! Mum. That was ace (a surprising, new word in his vocabulary). And it only took two minutes! Result.’

And with that, he tapped his food stats into his app, put his empty plate in the kitchen and sauntered upstairs.

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