It was hard being a teenager. Who doesn’t remember all that angst, the uncertainty, the desperation to be liked? I was a particularly morose specimen (I was a bit unique in the sense that nobody understood me, you see). Plus my hormones had conspired to give me the winning combination of bad skin, frizzy hair and puppy fat. I’d plug myself into my oh-so-up-to-date Discman and scowl at the difficulty of my life (to be fair, the top music artists in the year that I was 15 were the likes of Atomic Kitten, S Club 7 and Westlife, so I can’t really be blamed for a general sense of doom).
And yet, reminiscing like this has made me realise that I’ve felt many of these sorts of feelings far more recently than my teens. Becoming a new mum last year plunged me into a similar pit of anxiety and confusion. Suddenly I was out of my depth, feeling isolated, unsure, fretting about my ability to breastfeed, panicking about changing nappies and eager to fit in with the mums at the coffee morning. Where teenagers might employ false bravado in conversations about drugs or virginity, I’d pretend that I’d heard of Sophie the Giraffe and make out that I, too, felt passionately about the bassinet fittings on unaffordable Bugaboo strollers.
Actually, forget last year – just this week I’ve experienced equally teenage-like behaviour close to home. Although not from me this time – from my infant son. I thought it wasn’t until two-and-a-half or so that they’d start to become the dreaded ‘threenagers’, but at 17 months, my little boy is showing many of the signs of a typical adolescent.
The tantrums are the main thing, of course. His new lust for independence means any attempt to put him into his stroller is akin to initiating world war three – arched back, rigid body and blood-curdling howls.
On top of that there’s his newfound tendency to have a lie-in. Now don’t get me wrong – this is a glorious development. It’s just a shame that it only happens after he’s kept us up half the night and demanded a 5am milk feed. Then he is quite content to stay in bed until 7, 8, once even 9am – we had to wake him up for swimming lessons and he actually rolled his eyes in annoyance and slumped back down to snooze.
As with many teens, my toddler’s personal hygiene leaves much to be desired – he’s quite happy to leave scarlet cherry juice on his cheeks and crusted cornflakes in his hair, and balks loudly if I try to clean it off him. Bath time is OK but teeth cleaning is full of drama, frustration and angst for all of us – if he could, I’m sure he’d yell, “Why can’t you just leave me alone!?”
Which brings me to the point that, as with many teenagers, he’s also largely monosyllabic – and he never tidies his room (this is starting to get a bit unfair now...).
And, although I wouldn’t say he’s embarrassed by my husband and me quite yet, he will pretend he doesn’t know us the minute a cool-looking two- or three-year-old is in the vicinity. Just last weekend at a play area, we were shunned in favour of an older little boy who’d decided to push a dolly in a pram incessantly round and round. Overcome with hero worship, our toddler followed suit – by the end of it we were all quite dizzy.
Which all goes to show that, whether you’re a teen, a new mum, a toddler, or just a regular adult, we all experience the same feelings of self-doubt, alienation, frustration and uncertainty. We just get a bit better at coping with them – or perhaps only hiding them – as we get older.
I was going to end by saying that at least one thing we’ve all left behind us is Atomic Kitten, but I’ve just found out that the girl band has reformed and is touring still. Which I suppose proves that none of us ever really grows up. And in a way that’s strangely comforting.