This month has been a historic one as another daughter turned thirteen.
That means there are two teenagers living in the house. That makes two young children, two teenagers, me, the dog and my husband under one roof.
I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. Last weekend outside it was raining cats and dogs whilst inside the house it was an accusation from the newest teenager that was causing a cloudy atmosphere.
“YOU LOVE THAT DOG MORE THAN ME” she shouted just before slamming the door of her bedroom in my face.
This was less than five days after she turned thirteen. I swear that she would never have behaved like this a week previously.
The transformation from happy go lucky child to moody teen has literally happened overnight. “Of course I don’t,” I reassured her through the door, my nose stuffed into the corner so tightly that I could smell WD40.
I looked down at my feet. Our little dog Penny sat there quietly looking up at me. “YOU CAN’T EVEN GET MY NAME RIGHT” she shouted through the door at me.
I could detect that the teenager wasn’t crying; there was no need for me to grab the Kleenex or phone for assistance. I have a habit of calling up Lisa when times get hard. She is also a mother of teenage girls and my ‘Phone A Friend’ in a crisis situation. “Of course I know your name!” I comforted her through the door, my nose squashed right up to the hinge.
It’s not that I forget any of my kids’ names, I just get muddled up. I have to look at any one of them for a good five seconds before the name comes to me.
It’s part of the ageing process, name badges would help but tongues would start wagging. With the family pet in the mix it is true that occasionally I’ll call one of the children ‘Penny’ by mistake.
The two youngest children came bounding up to me. “Can we go outside? Got any ice pops?” they asked, reminding me that it really is summer. They ran off outside in the rain eating Loop The Loops.
I looked down at the dog who was still looking up at me with total and utter devotion. I had been talking to the hinge for a good ten minutes when I decided to give up, head back to the kitchen and switch on Jeremy Kyle for light relief.
Ironically, the show was entitled ‘My Kids Are Black And Angry!’ which I could half relate to.
The neighbour’s black cat walked past the kitchen, watching me watching the angry family on the telly. The cat sat on the wall and stared at me like she hated me. I offered her food, she looked at me with disgust. I tried to stroke her. She hissed her disgust.
That ungrateful cat looks down on me whether she is on the wall or not. If I fainted with exhaustion after my morning of ironing, moody teenagers and Jeremy Kyle, she would have walked over my body.
That cat thinks she owns the world and is totally and utterly self absorbed. As I lack lustily tackled the ironing, my eyes darting between the moody black cat, the angry black kids and a pile of shirts, my other teenager surfaced in a ‘onesee’.
It was just after midday. I decided to greet her with something benign but friendly. I have to choose my words very carefully as she is easily distressed by too much verbal interaction.
“Good Morning Sunshine!” I tried. She grunted in my direction. That’s a standard response in our house. Grunts are good, it means that she is alive and breathing. Any signs of life are a positive with teenagers.
She shuffled past me like she had heavy, wet sandbags glued to the soles of her feet and headed for the fridge. I watched from behind the mountain of ironing as she opened the fridge door, let out an “AGGHHHH” and covered her eyes.
The poor thing was almost blinded by the fridge light. Her sleeping patterns are such that she may as well live in a cave. Natural daylight and the glow from the fridge almost blinds her. It’s a vampire like existence.
I watched as she poured milk into her bowl, onto the kitchen counter and onto the floor. She emptied cereal on top, over the counter and onto the floor.
Then I watched as she went back to her bedroom with her cereal, glancing at me with the same look of contempt that I get from the neighbour’s cat. I shouldn’t encourage cereal in bed but I am learning to pick my fights, maintain an air of calm and do my best to give the impression that we a normal, not the least bit dysfunctional, family.
The two younger children came running back in. “It’s stopped raining!” They were insanely happy and went back outside immediately with balls and rackets.
They still have that zest for life, that energy, enthusiasm and humour that vanishes when the biological clock strikes thirteen. They only stop for food and drink. They will chase a ball, go for a walk, try any new adventures I suggest and generally lead a carefree, happy, uncomplicated existence. They are still full of cuddles, like nothing more than to be tickled, listen to me and when I tell them to “Sit” or “STAY” or “FETCH”, they really do. I could enter either one of them into Crufts next year.
At the other end of the spectrum, the teens stayed in their room for the rest of the day, occasionally preening themselves but mostly sleeping. They only surfaced again once the sun had gone down and GLEE came on the telly.
I can’t complain. It’s just what teenagers do. I did it and it drove my own mother as mad as I am now.
My earliest childhood memory is of her sobbing into the ironing pile with Elvis in the background, doing her best to ignore us. Here I am thirty years later doing the very same. Later that day I suggested my theory that children are like dogs and teenagers are like cats. She quoted Winston Churchill back to me. “Cats look down on us. Dogs look up to us. Pigs treat us as equals.” Now there’s a topic for Jeremy Kyle if ever there was one.