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It’s half term and the teenagers are looking for inspiration.
It’s half term and that means younger people are around and want to be entertained. Which would be great, but it’s raining and no-one agrees on anything or has any useful suggestions of their own. Normally half term is quite an easy thing to work around. It’s not worth booking whole days off because teenagers don’t tend to wake up till lunchtime and then we can do something in the afternoon. Daughter three is working on three of the days in any event so needs to catch up on sleep. However, working seems to have awoken in her an appetite for getting up earlier. Nooo.
By Monday she had exhausted all the re-runs of Eurovision and turned her nose up at every single suggestion I made – books [a lost cause…], arts and crafts, walks in the forest, skating [all kinds], bowling, charity shops, swimming, badminton, etc, etc. She had determined that she would wake up ‘early’ on Tuesday so we could go into London to see ‘an exhibition’. All research on said exhibition was left to her mother. She argued that it would be a family bonding event and would keep only son off Minecraft. I came up with a Paul McCartney lyrics thing which appealed to her love of music, daughter two’s love of Linda McCartney country pies and only son’s burgeoning interest in the Beatles. “As long as it’s not just about Mull of Kintyre”, I said. All I remember about that was that it stayed at number one for about a century and was probably not PM’s lyrical peak.
But then Tuesday loomed and daughter three did not appear until around 11am at which point it was raining non-stop. Daughter two and only son had been to London at the weekend when daughter three was working and had already had the pleasure of the multiple tube line closures and non-stop rain. Daughter two said she was not in favour of getting wet again and only son refused point blank to go on the basis that he had taken his trainers to school for PE and only had a pair of shoes with a hole in them. Fair enough.
Daughter three then withdrew to her room, using the age-old teen tactic of ‘the silent treatment’. She couldn’t even shut the door in protest because all that is left of the door is the frame after daughter two got stuck in the room several years ago when the lock jammed and emergency measures had to be taken because we had to get to school.
I had already done my usual rant about how parents can’t be expected to come up with all possible solutions to things and that sometimes people have to do things that don’t particularly appeal for the sake of the team. I added that parents do stuff they don’t really want to do ALL THE TIME. I may have gone a little too far along this line of argument, but I was pushed to the edge by the intense surveillance of my washing-up habits by daughter two in the lead-up to the rant. She thinks I don’t take long enough over it. My argument is that I don’t have time and because I do it every day, several times a day, it gets very, very tedious. If she also did it as often as I do and didn’t only wash up the items in the sink that she alone uses then she too might do it in a speedier fashion. She also follows me around the kitchen to check that no meat or container of meat comes within spitting distance of her demarcated vegan zone.
In any event, said surveillance no doubt enhanced my rant and I felt guilty later on. Mainly because everyone is on edge at the moment as it is the week leading up to the anniversary of daughter one’s death. Everyone is looking for distractions, stuck in their own grieving strategies, and someone has to look out for us all and keep us getting up every day. It’s often hard to know what is normal teenage behaviour and what is all the other stuff going on in their heads so I tend to imagine the worst. Imagining the worst has become a habit in the last two years when the worst has already happened. I’m reading a lot of books on grief, but none seem to get down to the minutiae of handling different family members’ fluctuating emotions.
Lots of conversations are begun, but few get anywhere because teenagers often don’t want to speak or articulate in any way what they are feeling, maybe because they don’t want to upset other people or themselves. You constantly feel impotent and as if you are of no use whatsoever. What would help them – and us – would be some sense of community, some friends coming around, something practical, but everyone seems tied up in their own worlds and many people – especially young ones – don’t know what to say. And I know that everyone has had a lot on their plate in the last two years. I get it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Grief can be a very lonely thing, but I don’t think it needs to be and I know for certain that daughter one, who cared deeply about everyone she loved, would not want it to be.