At ages seventeen to eighteen adolescents tend to:
• feel that they are adults and want to be treated equally
• want to leave home, either to get ready for university or to find a place of their own
• have formed a stable relationship (possibly sexual) and have a serious boyfriend/girlfriend
• be more involved with friends rather than family
• be working towards financial independence.
I often sit cross legged amidst the gang of teenagers and watch each one furtively, analysing and assessing his or her motives and behaviours whilst appearing to be an uneasy mix of mother and friend rolled in to one. Being a parent really is a twenty-four hours a day job. However, new experiences and rewards come from each stage of development that my children go through.
One new perk ofthe job at this point in our lives is the fact that I am able to relive, or maybe even in some aspects experience for the first time, my youth.a mid life crisis Matthew calls it! When the young boys eventually drop off to sleep for a while, Luke is firmly rooted to the computer chair, Sarah to the armchair and Anna tucked up in bed, all logic says that I should grab a quick hour or two ofsleep before the younger boys begin the usual night time antics ofpoo smearing and bed wetting. However.. .I never have been one who has been deemed sensible!
At this time, Matthew comes home from Marine Cadets, Rachel emerges like a princess from her bedroom and one by one, a host of adoring suitors start to enter the house ready for the antics of Blackpool's nightlife!
Rachel ready for a night out.
Rachel ready for a night out.
Rachel and I argue over who is wearing whose clothes and Matthew moans and hurries us along in his usual regimented fashion. If we are going out for 11pm then 11.10pm just will not do!
Matthew's and Rachel's friends have long since come to accept that our household is not the 'norm' and nothing surprises them when they come here. The Jackson household seems to attract teenagers by the dozen. Of course it may be something to do with the fact that I have such beautiful daughters but I do think the way in which the whole household is so accepting and the fact that we have such fun here has a lot to do with the attraction. Having such a colourful household has many advantages and for me, one ofthem is that the teenagers and their friends think nothing of me and my friend going out to a nightclub at midnight and jumping around on the dance floor with them. In the Jackson household, nothing shocks or surprises!
Whilst the thought of going out with your teenagers to clubs and pubs may horrify many of you reading this, for me it may (sometimes!) be fun but it also prevents a lot of worry. When I am not totally worn out, I am lucky enough to look younger than my years and my friend looks young enough to pass for a teenager herself (OK Sam, so I am green with envy!). We can both therefore go out with Matthew and Rachel and their friends without standing out too much (at least in the dark!). Whilst we have fun, we are also aware that in many ways we are still 'babysitting'. Although Matthew is now nineteen, he isn't your average nineteen-year-old (sorry Mat but you know it's true!). As Matthew is diagnosed with dyspraxia and dyslexia, he has the typical 'tapestry' of difficulties with social interaction and communication which all serve to make him rather different from his peers. Whilst he has a wonderful core group of friends who accept him and his clumsiness, with his tendency to 'exaggerate' (like Joe, Mat can make up the most far-fetched stories and totally believe them himself) and his bluntness, it is not so easy for strangers to understand him. For this reason, Matthew can get into difficulties when he is out and about at nightclubs and pubs.
I am fully aware that I can not be at their sides forever and eventually each of the children has to learn by his or her own mistakes, but
Matthew finds it harder to learn than his peers. As a very premature baby, he has always been emotionally a few years behind his peers and this still seems to be the case. Maybe there will come a day when he catches up but for the moment, the fact that I am able to go out with them means I can watch and explain to him exactly why he gets barred from nightclubs or how a fight nearly breaks out because he calls someone's girlfriend fat or ugly. Rachel, whilst thinking I am quite cool to go out with her and share clothes, is quite capable of negotiating these aspects of life for herself and often she ends up looking after Matthew and trying to prevent trouble, in much the same way as I do. Sarah I suspect will be more than capable of looking after herself. .and Matthew too no doubt!
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