Written by Claire Handrick


Living with a teenage stranger

Claire Handrick has misjudged the challenges of being the mother of a teenager and has decided to chronicle the joys, frustrations, hair-pulling moments and deep-rooted fears she’s experiencing. This week (or the past three, actually) has been mostly about weathering the storm.


Illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

I wish I had written this three weeks ago when all was brilliant, my daughter was happy and wanted to hang out at home and to go out as a family.

It was a happy house, and then the bubble burst and it’s been a bit shit ever since.

There’s been a lot going on for my teenager and I had thought, a week ago, that it couldn’t get any worse. We had weathered another storm and were coming out slightly battered, but OK. But it seems I was so wrong: it could get worse and there was a tornado waiting just around the corner.

Most of it is normal teenage/parent stuff – arguments, boundaries, booze, friends, tears and tantrums – but it is exhausting and this last round of dramas has left me needing to pause for breath for a while.

Yesterday I was in floods of tears, frustrated by the lack of respect, the rudeness, by the constant need to push back against me, by the hatred that has been coming my way.

“She’s bright and beautiful and she could do anything she wanted, but she has a little band of mates who also do fuck all and that seems to be OK.”

To the best of my abilities I listen, advise, support, protect, reassure and she knows I am there for her, but this comes with little desire to do any of this for herself and I have been left wondering if I have been doing it all wrong. Maybe I need to let her get on with it and bugger the consequences.

But I am the parent and my role is to protect her even when she thinks she knows best, which she frequently does. Is it also my job to take this abuse though?

When it is bad, I am shouted at, criticised, belittled and scowled at. At times she is so angry, mainly with me, and I just don’t know why: I am not abusive or cruel, I am loving and understanding and there for her when she needs me, but she can walk all over that and it hurts like nothing else. It also leaves me struggling to know what to do for the best.

teenager2She’s lost; she has very little enthusiasm for anything other than her friends; she’s bored but she won’t do anything about it – and she won’t listen to me because I am boring and just a mum.

She’s bright and beautiful and she could do anything she wanted, but she has a little band of mates who also do fuck all and that seems to be OK.

If I was to ask her what she is rebelling against I know she would go all Brando on me.

Underneath all the sometimes vile bravado I see a young girl who doesn’t know what she wants or who she wants to be and that makes me feel even more helpless than ever because she has to work that out for herself.

All I can do is just do what I do – enjoy the brilliant days, be there when she needs me and keep weathering each storm until it passes…

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Written by Claire Handrick

Mother, ponderer and cake eater.