Written by Claire Handrick


Living with a teenage stranger

Claire Handrick has misjudged the challenges of being the mother of a teenager. She’ll be chronicling the joys, frustrations, hair-pulling moments and deep-rooted fears in this new column.

All illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

All illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

I am mother to a teenager – a role I was naively looking forward to because it was never going to be too hard. After all I know my child; she won’t turn into someone who is uncommunicative and secretive.

Hahahahahahaha – I laugh at myself now.

At times, living with a teenager is like starting all over again with a stranger, not someone I have seen almost every day since she was born.

On rare days, she talks, she interacts, she discusses, she is warm and she wants to be in our company and she is bloody lovely.

On other days it is like living with someone who chucks verbal abuse out day and night. In a look, I can be crushed. And the first time she uttered the words “I fucking hate you”, I swear I felt my heart shatter. If anyone else spoke to me like that I would be moving out.

But I’m getting stronger. I am adjusting to life with a hormonal young woman who is trying to figure out herself, people and the world.

I am trying not to take it personally when she verbally attacks me for getting her up in the morning, asking her to bring down her washing, making sure she isn’t late for school and checking she is on top of her homework. It’s like having a really angry tantruming toddler who can throw in an F-bomb.

I’m also trying to keep it together when she bursts into tears and says she is struggling.

“In a look, I can be crushed. And the first time she uttered the words “I fucking hate you”, I swear I felt my heart shatter.”

My teenager parenting seems to lurch from completely chilled to up-all-night-worrying. The age-old issues of smoking, drinking, drugs and sex are still there, but what keeps me awake are my concerns about her low mood, the risk of self-harming, the desire to be skinny and how all of this can be fuelled by social media.

teenager2Is she OK in her room on her own all evening or is she withdrawn and hiding away? It is sometimes hard to know what to do for the best and I find myself feeling as lost now as when she was first born.

I try to pick my battles and set some boundaries but not to worry too much. I miss her company, I miss her being my little girl when her world revolved around cuddles, tickles, cartoons, swings and biscuits, and I admit it smarts a tad when I am snubbed for her mates.

Some days I see her for 10 minutes if I’m lucky – but I guess this is boringly normal and she knows where I am when she needs me. I need to let go a little and I need to trust her more.

This week she doesn’t seem to need me, so politeness has largely left the house, moodiness has moved in and she just wants to do her own thing. My strategy in this situation is to let her get on with it – as long as she is not struggling, she is on top of her homework, she is getting to school and she is eating some dinners with us.

I don’t want unnecessary battles and friction. I am here if she needs me and that’s the best I can do.

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Written by Claire Handrick

Mother, ponderer and cake eater.