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.
I know from last summer that an 18th birthday for a “regular” kid is fraught with a myriad of anxieties about absolutely everything, so I can imagine that for the Rose it is the biggest of all big deals.
I wish her party to be everything she herself would wish for, and I know that if you have any power at all you will make it just so.
Oh for some real life fairy dust!
Thank you so much for this very kind comment. It’s true teenagerhood is fraught no matter what side of the spectrum you appoarch it from. Here’s to the fairy dust. X
For my 18th Birthday, my parents done the same thing as you did, threw a party in my own home. Personally, I don’t think it matters too much how many people turn up, quality is always better than quantity. Every teenager wants to be popular and have as many friends as possible, but a better party is one with not as many people,so you can spend more time with each one, and you aren’t overwhelmed with the number of people, sometimes less is more!
I really appreciate your comments Ryan. It is truly inspirational to understand your point of view especially. I agree as I think quality is what we will get and much less stress.
Much less to clean up after as well!
Please don’t. Worry. What’s the worst that can happen? Plan for the worst and then be delighted when it works out so much better. I completely understand as I am an aspie and get very edgy around the time of my birthday and have done even as a child. I now plan for this and excuse myself for wanting to hibernate for a week. However I always bear in mind that birthday celebrations can be very trying under the surface of the neurotypical world aswell wether they admit it or not. Last year my (neurotypical ) friend hired a big hall with a band and found the whole thing so stressful that she ended up either crying in the toilets or snapping at her husband and she was forty!..my advice is just tell her to put some decent music on down a few cocktails and dance the night away.
Really wise words.
I hope it all went smoothly. I can empathise with a lot of that as it was a steady worry through my teenage years and still somewhat now. As a defence mechanism, I still try to keep my expectations low in case someone lets me down (and annoyingly, I’ve made the mistake of making friends with people who do that too often. People that it’s taken me far too long to realise aren’t worth it!). I hope she had a good birthday. 🙂