Sunday, 16 April 2017

Growing Pains - They Run In the Family

17:06:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography No comments
There are two types of growing pains, as far as I'm concerned. There are the well known physical pains that children suffer from as they try to keep up with their developing bodies; and then there are the emotional pains which don't get an official mention on Google. When the hormones kick in there's no escaping those emotional pains.  It's always just at the cusp of puberty, in that no man's land between carefree childhood and angst ridden teenage years. 

Just on the Cusp

As far as I recall, our own kids never went through physical growing pains but their teenage years were so long ago now that I find it hard to remember much of what went on.  Or is that Alzheimer's kicking in with me? Maybe it's like giving birth: horrendous at the time but somehow that gets forgotten and it's all worth it in the end. 

In fact, looking back, I think the whole family went through emotional growing pains together. Our three children were born so close in age (with less than four years from first to last) that each stage of their growing up was condensed into a short intense period of uncontrolled mayhem. 

I'd like to say their teenage years were probably the worst (and they might well have been as we didn't find out about half of went on until much later when we were all safely through it) but actually the years one to four of the youngest one's life, were pretty much hell on Earth. Dan cried constantly - and so did I. 

The day he started nursery I breathed a huge sigh of relief. With the other two at school I was beside myself with excitement.  Every single morning would be mine, and mine alone from then on. The euphoria lasted until lunchtime on that first day, when Dan thought he was Superman, jumped off the top bunk and broke his leg. He was off nursery (and I was off my head) for the next six weeks. 

Anyway, back to the teenage years.  I think we actually got off pretty lightly, although, as I say, what with the memory and the fact that we weren't privy to much of it till they were too old to be in trouble, means that I could be wildly mistaken. The few incidents I do recall are burnt into my memory: 

  • The sleepovers that weren't quite what they'd been sold as.
  • The slurred phone calls denying anything alcoholic had passed their lips.
  • A sixteen year old Laurey returning on the back of a motorbike as I was getting up to go to work.  My words, as we crossed on the stairs, were simple and to the point (the look said it all), 'I'll speak to you later.'
  • A fifteen year old Joe, spotted out in the garden in a sleeping bag early one morning. I can't remember now what the story was but I do remember being beside myself with worry that he was off the rails. To compound this I convinced myself that he was glue sniffing (rife at the time) due to the fact that he had sore lips and a runny nose (no doubt caused by a night on damp grass in a thin sleeping bag).
  • Some convoluted tale from Laurey about a purse she'd lost on the bus on the way home from her Saturday job. When I found out years later that she'd gone to her first nightclub and got so drunk that she hadn't a clue where her purse went I was very tempted to ask for the money back that had been given to her in sympathy. 
  • Meanwhile, Dan, the miserable toddler, had turned into a happy and sociable teenager, and the only incident I remember about him was when we went skiing in Italy one Christmas when he was about sixteen. He went out on Christmas Eve with Joe and Laurey, got so drunk that he had to be dragged out of bed at 6pm on Christmas Day and forced to dress and accompany us to our Family Christmas Day meal.  Under sufferance, he ordered a pizza, took one look at it, turned green and left the table. We didn't see him again till Boxing Day. 
  • And, in the early teenage years, the innocent questions and weeks of obvious puzzlement before the dawning understanding as things began to fall into place. The child who lay in the middle of the room, reading a teenage magazine, while all the family were sat around.  The piping, "What's an orgasm mum?" will haunt me forever.   As a parent who prided herself on answering all questions honestly, I knew what I had to do.  I just wished there hadn't been such an audience.  As it was, my mum, who had been a teacher and a Childline counsellor, launched confidently into a vivid description, leaving me breathing a sigh of relief, whilst I looked down into my lap and quietly squirmed with embarrassment. Spurred on by this result, the child continued to find even more probing questions within the magazine, the likes of which I will leave to the reader's imagination.  Suffice to say, I was glad to get up and make a cup of tea, leaving good old grandma in the Mastermind Chair (specialist subject "Sex Questions for the under Fourteens.")
Of course there must be more tales. I'm sure I spent much of the '90s tearing my hair out and phoning my mum in tears.  Fortunately, nature has taken pity on me and suppressed most of those painful memories.  Now, I remember, through rose tinted specs, the lovely holidays, the meals out, the birthdays and Christmases where we were all together, laughing and chatting.  I daren't ask the kids, maybe they haven't got the rose tinted specs and they're all writing blogs about what a miserable old tyrant their mother was back then.... 

I'm sure when my children have got teenagers of their own they will have a little more sympathy with the growing pains of their parents.  After all, I remember vividly my mum crying herself to sleep the night my sixteen year old brother bought himself a pair of Cuban heels (all the rage at the time - let's face it, the Beatles wore them).  With not only the Cuban heels but also the long hair and talk about getting a Lambretta, mum was convinced that he was in for a life of drug taking, mad racing  and delinquency.  At the time, as a fairly innocent, boy hating fourteen year old I was inclined to agree with her.  Fifty years on he's a respectable short haired maths teacher, in a suit.  And flat lace ups. 

Plus ca change and all that...... 

This week's poem is one I wrote a while ago.  I think it's relevant for today's theme, although maybe I should update it.  Apologies if you've seen it before. 

Oh Mother, Oh Daughter

A Poem by Jill Reidy
I wrote this in 1998 when I was 46, my daughter was 18 and my mum was 70. Dedicated to my mum from her favourite daughter, and to my favourite daughter from her mum. 

That dress
Pink stretch towelling
Plunging neck and a keyhole to reveal
A heaving teenage cleavage
The length was
Just this side of decency
Red patent shoes, platforms
High heels, crossed straps
I can see them now
Click clack click clack
They killed but I felt fab
Just fab

Mum watched me from the window
Brow furrowed
As I tottered, wiggled
Waggled, giggled
To the bus stop
She was never one of those
You're-not-going-out-in-that mothers
But I knew
I just knew
That she wasn't 

I didn't care, I looked great, I felt great
'Those white lips, black eyes
Like a clown'
She whispered it to dad in the kitchen
I'd heard, but I didn't care
I knew I looked great
The hooting, the wolf whistles
As I giggled and wiggled
Confirmed it
I was immortal, invincible
I got away with murder
I'd never be old like my mum

Thirty years
Gone by like three
Stretch lycra (we only had nylon)
Plunging neckline, bare midriff
Platform high heeled boots
To the knee
Skirt just - only just - 
This side of decency
Black eyes
Lips silver this time round
She totters and wiggles
Waggles and giggles

I watch from the window
Biting my lip
'what does she look like?'
Sighs her dad
'She'll freeze'
'She looks great,' I say
'They all go out like that'
I like her best with pink lipstick
And I wish she'd take a cardigan
She doesn't care
She knows she looks fantastic
She'll never be middle-aged like her mum.

 Thanks for reading     Jill

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