By Joanne Fedler for The Times:
I suppose I hope it’ll dawn on them that I’m not such a terrible parent for insisting electronics be shut down at 9pm and they each do one chore a week. Instead they look at each other and roll their eyes.
Now that my children are teenagers, the exhausting years of claustrophobic motherhood have been replaced with this: me left feeling a bit silly. They know more than I do about too many things. I need their help with i-Tunes and my i-Phone. They snigger, as if I’m some nerd who’s been under a rock and only just emerged into the daylight of popular culture.
“Don’t come in. I’m filming,” the 12-year-old calls down the passage, like he’s Spielberg or something. I have no idea what’s actually going on in his room, except that later there’ll be Youtube downloads of his “gameplay” which he then insists I watch because it gives him “views”, which is currently how he measures his self-worth.
Parenting teenagers has come upon me suddenly. One day we were in parks, eating ice cream and playing on the slippery dip, and the next my daughter was telling me to “give her a break, she has PMS”, and my son remarking that “roll-on works better, but aerosol is more manly”.
Time Out and Naughty Corners are obsolete and ridiculous. “Eat your broccoli” is usually met with “You eat my broccoli” or “I’ve decided to give up green vegetables”. When I insist, my daughter quotes the Convention on the Rights of the Child. She claims her right to eat what she wants has been recognised by the UN.
I’ve had to update my parenting techniques, like a Facebook status. My children are changing, nightly, by the glow of their computer screens, the click of a mouse, the tweet in the night, and I have to keep up if I want to stay in the game.
My daughter used to love it when people said she looked like me. Now she scowls as if she’s been told she resembled Barney the Dinosaur. When my son sinks a three-pointer, my whoops just embarrass him.
“Be cool, mum. It’s just a basketball game.”
It’s my dignity I miss.
As I search for new meaning in my role as their mum, their need for independence stretches me to breaking point. I have to trust them in the world and the world with them or cripple them with my neurosis. They may be growing up, but I’m having to toughen up, to withstand the shame of having to ask someone a quarter my age what LMFAO means, or what a meme is. Their snappy, cool comebacks make me say puerile things like: “I carried you for nine months of my life. Is it such a big deal to carry two shopping bags to the kitchen?”
They’re preparing me. With closed doors, private conversations and peer secrets, they’re letting me go. They’re shrugging me off like old skin.
Right now I’ll settle for a role in their support team, and not to be defriended by them on Facebook. But I’m slowly expanding my own horizons, and dreaming up that life they keep telling me to get. Who knew of the secret deal between us – that as they grow into themselves, they give me back to myself where I get to watch from the sidelines as they unfurl into funny, opinionated, interesting people I like?
- The Reunion by Joanne Fedler
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