In four weeks The Rose turns 18.
I won’t be the first – or last Mum, to question where the time has gone, shed a tear for the baby years and make a wish for the grown up ones.
I think of the future so much. I hope she will one day feel able to stand on her own two feet, but a tiny bit of me hopes she stays home for ever.
I pray she will love a man who loves her back more and has the patience of a saint, but I am scared he won’t have read her ‘manual’ – the one we’ve carefully written over the years and which our family adds to everyday . ‘The Rose’ – instructions for smoother day to day running’ – it’s an ever growing tome.
I hope against hope she will have children, but I fear that her anxiety and frustration with life will affect will affect them too badly.
And I feel shame and guilt for all of this of course but currently…
…we are planning a party!
A wonderful son of very close family friends turned 18 a month ago. He is the most popular, kind and cool teenager I have ever met and he had an amazing, huge party in the local village hall, which we all went to and loved. He grew up with The Rose and I can’t be more thankful he’s around.
The Rose of course wants to re-create the same party magic and she knows very well she doesn’t know enough people to fill the kitchen – let alone the hall.
She’s attractive and makes friends easily. She likes to make people laugh, she’s funny, quirky and kind beyond measure, but her inability to keep it going; her need to withdraw frequently; her abruptness and temper flares with anxiety and stress means, the wonderful ones who do stick around are generally derived from our own family and friends.
And while this is great in private – publicly (for her) it sucks. So the handful of 17/18 year olds who she hangs with at college – she doesn’t want to mix with her younger mates in whose company she is much more at ease….and she is scared that at any moment they could all let her down – and she will have no idea what caused it or what she should have done to prevent it.
What to do?
We’ve all felt it haven’t we? The mixing up of social circles and the dilemma of how to ‘be’ with different groups. It may diminish as we get older but we also have the benefit of experience, learning’s from our social antennae which allow us to modify so we grow confident in how to be, and who we are.
I have spent hours with her explaining that we will fill the hall with people, people who love her and will be there for her – but that’s no good is it? She wants her own friends, her own social whirl. To be her own star with adoring acolytes. She wants to be courted by handsome boys and confided in by beautiful girls.
I’ve helped her write and refine her meagre guest list. We’ve planned the beer and nibbles. But nothing is right and everything is wrong. She is so stressed because she can’t imagine what it will actually be like.
She can’t plan the social map. She can’t prepare for how to be.
She has been let down so many times before by friends who she has arranged to see who simply just don’t turn up, that she truly believes she will be exposed and embarrassed and everyone will know…
‘…I’m a loser Mum. I’m too horrible to like. I am black in my heart’
My loud reassurances that of course she isn’t, sound pathetic as they leave my mouth. She knows how she feels. And I do her an injustice disagreeing with her feelings. I need to show her I understand her and hold her close and quiet while she sobs.
“ Mum, I just don’t know how to have fun. I don’t know how to make it happen so that everyone will be happy and have a nice time. I will say stupid things. I will say the wrong thing and I will want to go home because I’m stupid!”
“We don’t have to have a party you know love” I suggest brightly while sneaking in a few kisses – it’s not often I’m allowed this close – “we could have a small, really special gathering in a restaurant or I could cook and you could have your favourite people round for dinner. You could all dress up in your finest clothes and The Dad, The Brother and I could wait on you all like in a real restaurant”
The Rose stops her sobbing instantly, like switching off a tap. She pulls away from my grasp and stares at me murderously from several arms lengths away:
“ Mum that’s just STUPID I’m 18 not 80. You have a big party when you are 18 and that’s what I’m going to do. And I’m going to get drunk and have boys dance with me and I’m going to laugh and make a speech and I’m going to make a play list and I want lights and ……”
She has stomped off upstairs so I can’t hear the end of her rant but I think she may just have come round to accepting this will be a landmark birthday – whatever happens.