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, she reflects on the similarities between her 15 year-old self and her 15 year-old daughter.

All illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

Illustration by Harriet Carmichael.

I have been thinking a lot about when I was a teenager. I was a lost 15-year-old who found safety in my bedroom away from my older siblings and away from my parents.

I lost myself in books and music but mainly in movies. I was often solitary; I didn’t have many friends – especially close ones – and I didn’t like school very much.

So when I think of my 15 year-old daughter, it would seem the apple has fallen very close to the tree.

I remember wanting to be liked; I remember feeling unattractive and fat; I remember wanting to be wanted, to be included and to be loved – not by my parents, because that didn’t count, but by anyone else.

Life for me got better when school ended and college started. I found my feet, my confidence grew and I made good friends. In many ways I blossomed and I have every hope that my girl will too.

With the gift of hindsight, I know life can get better. I know there is more to the world than school, where she doesn’t quite fit in; there is more to life than being stuck in a classroom with kids with whom she has little in common. There is a world of other people out there, of brilliant experiences and a life to live, but she doesn’t know it yet.

And when I am in a reflective mood, I know my teenager is taking her anger out on me because she can, because I am her constant safety net. If I had done this to my mum she would have slapped me; I might even have been chucked out. I didn’t have the same relationship with her because I was scared of her; she was not my safety net.

I try to guide, listen, comfort and cuddle as often and as well as I can and I think she knows I am there when life feels tough or uncertain.

Being a teenager has to be one of the toughest phases of life: working out who we are; what different people are like; being hurt; finding out that some people are selfish, manipulative and just not nice; discovering that the world doesn’t revolve around us; learning about responsibility and trying to work out our place in the world and what we want from life.

And as for being the parent of a teenager when they are going through all this? It’s the toughest part of the parenting journey so far for me – as empathic as I am, I can still take it personally. It has made me sob with frustration and sadness and it can be exhausting, and I can long to turn back the clock and have my little girl back again.

But then there is the great stuff too, when the teenage angst briefly disappears and there are discussions, there is humour, there is watching her learn new skills, watching her enjoying something and seeing her happy and carefree, having fun. And I wouldn’t wish any of that away.

Read the rest of Claire Handrick’s columns here.

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Written by Claire Handrick

Mother, ponderer and cake eater.