Yes, you read that correctly. I am holding up my weary hands, waving that white flag and admitting that my Mother right – about everything!
It all started when I hit puberty. If you’re familiar with the once-popular British TV characters ‘Kevin and Perry’, then that may give you a slight glimmer into my behaviour once the clock struck midnight on my thirteenth birthday.
I went from being a fairly easy child to a textbook rebellious teenager. It started off slowly. Dying my hair pink, wearing far too much black kohl eyeliner and purple eye shadow to school (in my defence, it was the mid-nineties) and trying to push the boundaries.
I’m deeply ashamed to admit these things now but by the time I was 15 years old, I was a living nightmare. I smoked, I skipped school and I was dating an older boy. I drove around in cars with said boy and his friends. One fateful night, this resulted in being us involved in a serious collision and me coming home the next morning with a broken ankle after spending the night in A&E.
I’d hang around the park and drink cider with my friends until we could barely stand. I flitted from one childish relationship to the next with no regard for anything else. Things gradually got darker and involved a suicide attempt (in hindsight, this was a classic cry for help rather than a genuine desire to end my life) and not coming home for days on end, amongst other dire events.
At the time, I was simply doing what my friends did, having fun and discovering my own identity. In my juvenile little mind, adults quickly became the enemy. The idea of actually taking responsibility for my own actions and the impact of my reckless behaviour on my loved ones didn’t remotely register with me.
I viewed my Mother as just another obstacle, standing in the way of my precious freedom; I had no respect, understanding or compassion for the fact that she had limited resources and emotions. My behaviour must have drained everything she had, all whilst she tried to hold down a job, study and raise two other children.
My Mother tried everything to help, from sending me to therapy and rewarding progress to family intervention and various forms of punishment. I realise now that she was doing the best she possibly could with a volatile, vulnerable and disobedient teenager who was on a dangerous path to self-destruction. In hindsight, even just writing these events down on ‘paper’ fills me with remorse and guilt. I must have put my Mother through absolute hell.
The turning point (in the strangest way) was finding myself unexpectedly pregnant at just 16 years old. This massive life change was the beginning of adulthood for me. I stopped drinking, rarely went out and focused all of my energy into being a Mother, whilst working hard to support my new family.
Twenty years later, I now find myself standing in the very same shoes that my own Mother did, wondering what the hell happened. As a Mother to two teenage daughters, I finally understand.
The intense emotions that this particular period of parenting brings are a heavy load to carry some days; the sleepless nights, the constant worry, the gut-wrenching panic when the phone rings and I hear the words: ‘Is that Mrs Valentine?’, resulting in a duty to down tools and pick up the broken pieces of the latest drama.
When my daughters are upset and hurting, I swear that my soul feels it too. Seeing them cry devastates me and the dull feeling of helplessness is unbearable. As toddlers, I could ‘fix’ most things with a plaster and kiss. As teenagers, it’s not so easy – I don’t know how to repair a broken heart or serious bouts of depression and anxiety.
My girls are simply behaving as most teenagers do, yet being on the other side of the fence is utterly terrifying. I’m still struggling to fully adjust to this new way of life. Some days, we’re closer than ever, enjoying girly trips to the cinema and spending quality time together. The next day, it’s all flipped again. The barriers are back up and my questions get answered with grunts and an air of disdain.
It’s not all bad, of course. The unconditional love and happier moments completely outweigh the dark days. I’m so very proud of the things that they’ve already achieved, throughout the worst of circumstances.
One day, my girls will both be adults and I will have raised them to be brave, strong and ambitious women. Every single parenting decision I have ever made has been solely for them; for their welfare, protection and future. This does not make a hero, I’m simply doing my job as a parent. It’s just a lot more overwhelming that I ever imagined it could be.
Again, my Mother was right.