Teenagers, Don’t Judge your Parents. It’s Tough on Us Too

I’m all over the shop in the parenting race right now, with 2 teenagers and a preschooler I’m pretty much at each end of the journey. That’s 17 years of putting other people’s needs way in front of your own, 17 years of guilt trips, wondering if you’re doing it right? And 17 years of small victories. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never found being a parent stressful, never once had that panic that I’ve messed up by adding to the human race, if anything my kids have been the making of me.

The pros have far out weighed the cons, one thing I’ve found though, is you can never quite predict what’s next.

2012 was the year I really had to consult the books, the year I realised that we were about to hit the turbulent years and I was loosing my grip and confidence on knowing what I was doing. Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’d trained in early years, the 0-8 age range, and that knowledge game me the gumption that I pretty much had a handle on the whole parenting thing. I oozed 0-8 years confidence and that confidence saw me through to the end of the primary years.

Then it hit me, my boy was going to secondary school, my boy was entering a whole new world where I had very little control. Not that I was ever a controlling parent, I prefer to describe as very much hands on in every aspect of his life. Not anymore though, now I’d done my thing and my little boy was about to be released into a big bad world of swearing, violence, sex, drugs and alcohol. A world where he would have to make his own choices, sensible or not, and all I could do was sit back and have confidence that I’d instilled some of my gutsy, don’t be a sheep ideologies and be your own person, make your own choices. 

Which probably quite amusing to my parents who had watched me fall prey to many of the teenage temptations and learn the hard way. Was I going to be hypocritical and say how bad those temptations were? And would I get my parental payback for all the strife I’d caused?

raising teenagers is hard, here's how I'm doing it

photo taken by The AMP Photo Co

My siblings and I often analyse our upbringing, we’re very close and open like that, testament to my parent’s treating us all equally and with honesty and respect to make our own way through life. Sure, we messed up, but we learnt from it and they never washed their hands of us when we did.

Whether that was ever a conscious decision brought about by a “how we gonna raise our kids?’ type discussion I’ll never know. ( I doubt very much though, I think my folks had very different out looks on life.)  We’ve all done alright though, all pretty emotionally secure. It was a pretty boss childhood. A few  blips, that’s life though; we probably could’ve done with a little more support through the teenage years when our parents were busy getting divorced. But that was just it isn’t it? They were only human and had to rein it in for a little while while they got their heads around what was going on.

And there is it, that one little negative, that one little human trait we all fall prey to. Which is why I guess I lost it at the thought of raising a teenager. What if my kids look back on their upbringing and say “yeah, she did all right. Up until I hit teens and then it all went a little belly up” ?

raising teenagers is hard, here's how I'm doing it

photo taken by The AMP Photo Co

But my upbringing showed that kids are pretty resilient especially if they have the best possible start in life, that sometimes throwing a curve ball, mixing things up and cutting back a little, getting your kids to start taking some initiative in life builds character. I loosed the Protective Mum reins, made our house a welcome place for all their friends and chauffeured them round. My thinking; teenagers are going to do what they’re going to do. All I can do is try to make things as safe as possible without helicopter parenting them at a time when they want to be free.

It’s a mind field and leap of faith I’ve had to talk myself through many a time.

Yet we’ve got there. I say we, there’s very little co parenting going on these days now I’m single parenting it. Which is a whole different thing to throw in the mix. But in some respects, doing it solo can be easier, there’s no conflict of ideas. I do my thing, I get back up and mull things over with my friends and family when need be.

So yes, I do feel I’ve got there; A 17-year-old who’s doing ok, actually I’m pretty damn proud of the man he’s morphing into. And my 13-year-old, my beautiful work in progress is showing great potential to go the same way.

But don’t ever let it be said that raising teenagers is easy. There will be tears, there will be moments where you think you’ve lost every ounce of control and there will be times when you think they don’t need you anymore.

But they do. And while you may get very little back, you just have to look for the signs of appreciation, sometimes with a microscope.

Raising teenagers just takes guts, trial and error and negotiation.

A bucketful of negotiation.

raising teenagers is hard, here's how I'm doing it

photo taken by The AMP Photo Co

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Capturing Normal With The AMP Photo Co

Being the one usually behind the camera, you’re never that comfortable being photographed. It’s nonsense really as I know that when I’m staring through a lens, I’m not thinking how that person looks, I’m working out the settings, the composition and the focus. So why I feel a certain sense of unease having someone taking my photo is bonkers. But I do. It’s for that very reason why I detest staged and posed photos, to me, they lack personality and not a true capture of that moment in time. 

Nope, give me lifestyle, reportage style photos any day and this was reinforced recently when the boys and I were the muse for The AMP Photo Co, based here in Devon.

Curious? Well the session looked a little like this……

After several emails back and forth, one half of the award-winning husband and wife duo, Mike gave me a little background on how the location photo shoot would work. His wife Anna is credited with being one of the top wedding photographers in the country so I knew we’d be in good hands.

We were to choose a setting in which we’d be photographed just going about our day and Mike would be in the back round capturing every little moment. I was keen on a snap shot of raw family life; Our ‘normal’ is a different ‘normal’ to this time last year. The boys are teenagers, doing normal teenage things. My pre schooler is our happy little distraction, always keeping us grounded. Ditto for the dog.

And how best to preserve these days than in a picture diary which we can look back on one day and really feel that moment. Good or bad, it’s a memory and not the social media perfect we try to put out there.

Instead of the staged studio photos a typical shoot depicts, I look at these photos and I see a 17-year-old who is tired after a night out with his friends.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

I see a 13 year old, who I worry isn’t happy, smiling.

When you’re so focused on one little negative it’s so easy to miss the positives.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

I see a 3-year-old who is fascinated with the world around him.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

Who might be the smallest in our family but has the biggest personality.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

And I see a mum who’s often a little pre occupied with her thoughts……..
Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

but is easily distracted by the slightest thing her kids do to make her smile.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

Then there’s our spaniel, the one who gets over looked most of the time, but our go-to for cuddles.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

And that’s what The AMP Co photo shoot showed me, what is going on in our family right now.

Our normal.

Capturing the moments we sometimes miss with The Amp Photo Co location photoshoot

 

Many thanks to The Amp Photo Co for let us experience a photo session on our local beach in Devon 

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This Is How I’m Helping My Kids Through A Divorce

It’s been quite some time since I wrote about my separation, to be honest I’ve never been more uncomfortable sharing something so personal and there are still aspects I will keep to myself. But there are also some things which I wanted to share, things I’ve leant and never expected to feel. No one can truly prepare you for what lies ahead, everyone’s story is different. Yet there are things, or rather, situations which most people experience but never really tell you.

You will have to use every core of your emotions to put your children first

Right from the start I wanted to make my divorce as pain-free for my kids. They were entering a whole new lifestyle which had never been predicted. One day they were looking forward to a future with a mum & dad; A wedding day with all the family, mum and dad on the top table, not a step parents in sight and weekends doing family stuff, always in their own house. Holidays would carry on as normal and when they left home they’d come back to mum and dads for Sunday roasts.

All the things they’d taken for granted suddenly swept away.

I know how that feels, I’m a child of divorce too and that whole uncertainty of what life is going to be like is pretty scary, especially when you haven’t got a lifetime of experience and adult reasoning to rationalise things.

So one thing I had to do was put myself in their shoes, this meant sending myself right back to how I felt all those years ago, not a nice memory to try relive, I might have been 19 but divorce is hard on kids no matter what age . Yet if the boys and I were to come out of this storm unscathed, they had to come first and I had to try and remember how the whole thing felt. 

You will have to learn to be fake happy

I never want to wave them off to spend time with their dad, I want them with me. I want life as normal as possible, I want a noisy house, clutter everywhere, weekends spent driving them around to friends, early wake up calls from my toddler and pizza on the sofa on a Saturday.

My boys want to see their dad.

So with a fake smile and over jolly voice I open the door, lump in my throat, and watch them leave. The silence when they go is deafening and not something you ever get use to. But my kids need and want  to see their dad and so they should. That’s me, once again, using every core of my emotions to put their needs first and not be selfish. What went on between him & I is no business of theirs and who am I to dictate whether they see him or not? 

divorce is tough on everyone & if I'm going to make sure my kids come through it unscathed, there's a few things i need to do
You will have to encourage a good relationship with step parents & family

While we’ve not quite crossed this path yet, there have been new partners. I’ve been very careful not to ask too many questions or quiz them when they return home after a weekend with their dad. I wanted to, believe me, but I know that they’ll feel like their loyalty is being tested. My way of coping with the times away from them is to not think about it, not pry and try not to moan about what they have or haven’t done, eaten or watched.

What I don’t know what hurt me or ignorance is bliss

There are moments when I want to pick up the phone and yell what do you think you’re doing to my ex husband and his family. But truth be told, I never agreed with their ways when we were together, as if they’re going to give a stuff what I think now. I remind myself I have to beg to differ. And when a new girlfriend is on the scene I will have to be positive, sharing my kids was never something I bargained on, but if they have a good relationship with her, their dad will be happy and with any luck, together they’ll pu our kids needs first. 

Put simply, I need to set an example and not bitch.

You can’t dis their other parent in front of them

Now that was and still is a hard one. Slagging off my ex, their dad, to the kids is dangerous to say the least. While I might feel better getting a few things off my chest, I’m also aware it can totally back fire and make them more protective of him, they’ll also get to see a not-so-nice side to me. On the other hand I could end up totally trashing their relationship with their father & causing some serious issues. My children have a right to a life with 2 parents, whether I like it or not, and I can’t jeopardise or control how that pans out. Friends and my family are my go to’s for a bloody good moan, not my kids.

Instead I only say good things, I don’t want my kids growing up being scared to talk about dad in front of me and luckily my family are doing exactly the same. Fake smiles and words all round, we’re getting quite good at pretending!

And the good? There’s always a silver lining

Going through a divorce makes you look for any and every inch of positivity. I’m not perfect,  I’ve had my moments where it’s stressed me, upset me and battered me back and blue emotionally. It’s during those times when I’ve had to dig deep to find the positives in what I’m doing.

And there is, it’s called resilience and optimism – looking ahead to a happy future.

Our house is much calmer and my kids know it, I just need to remind them. I’m also showing them that you don’t have to accept a situation which feels wrong, you can make changes, however hard they might be and sometimes you have to do things which scare you to see the long term benefits.  They’ve whitnessed me stepping into the unknown as life as a single parent and being a much more relaxed, happier person because of it. Divorce is never the easy way out, it takes a whole heap of guts to admit something isn’t right. Staying is much easier. 

I came out of my parents divorce alright and I know that my boys’ll be building up resilience to any future emotional wobbles. I’m teaching them they can handle anything, they might not feel that way now, but one day, I’m hoping they’ll look back and realise they handled it pretty bloody amazingly and can take on any future emotional upheaval with the same gumption. 

And Finally, I’m also teaching them that there is no normal when it comes to family, everyone is different, and in a world where difference is not getting a good rap right now, I think that’s a pretty good lesson to learn.

divorce is tough on everyone & if I'm going to make sure my kids come through it unscathed, there's a few things i need to do

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Chocolate Spread, but not as they know it (shhhhhh)

I’ve been slacking off the healthy eating reins a little lately. My eldest is following in my healthy footsteps, and totally out doing me  if I’m honest.<hides the Crunchie ice-cream out of shame > The tables have turned and it’s been my boy educating me on what I should and shouldn’t eat. I’d love to to take the credit but I suspect it’s more to do with teenagers being generally fitter and healthier these days. Meanwhile,  my younger teen has been taking advantage of my relaxed approach to nutrition by going into sugar overkill.

I’m sure something happens to kids when they first hit the teenage years, along with the lack of vocabulary / selective mutism and grumbles, there’s this overwhelming urge to consume as much sugar as possible. This begins at breakfast time and ends at evening snacks with fizzy drinks and sweets in the middle. As much as I try limit it at home, they can get what they want at school (and grandparents)  So it’s back to my original plan of attack with healthier eating begining at home.

The one area where Ky, my youngest teenager, really goes to town is early evening snacking, so any swaps we can make are starting here. This started out last week when I introduced Jim Jams chocolate spread, which has 83% less sugar, so he can slather as much on his toast without me recoiling in horror at the instant devastation it’ll be doing to his teeth. It also means my toddler can join in and I don’t have to worry about his sugar intake either. He’s not too bad to be fair, as fruit is his thing, but believe me, a lively toddler on a sugar rush is never a good thing always needs careful management.

finding sneaky ways to reduce my kid's sugar intake starting with Jim Jams chocolate spread!

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to healthy-up a toast topping for us all. I recently made my own hazelnut chocolate spread using raw cacao, maple syrup and ground hazelnuts which went down like a lead balloon. Suffice to say Jim Jams received a much better reception, I don’t even think they noticed the swap. And believe me, my teenager would tell me.

It’s also made it’s way into a family favourite – my own recipe for a Hazelnut, chocolate cake. so even more sneaky sugar reducing tactics going on.

And less sugar highs, mean less sugar lows which is always a good thing.

Disclaimer 

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. [I have received a voucher in return for writing this post]”

 

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Quality Time & Family-Style Dining At Prezzo

One of my favourite meal times are the occasions when everything is piled into the middle of the table and we all tuck in. With 2 teenagers as my regular dining companions, it’s usually a case of shove food in & go while the toddler and I try to decipher the adolescent grunts. But those meal times,  when it’s all laid out and we have to share are much more sociable so for a change of scenery, we took one of these family meal sharing moments to our local Prezzo to see if the La Familiagra   Sharing pasta bowls had the same effect.

Try out the La Famiglia sharing dish at Prezzo wile combining precious quality family time
Sharing a huge bowl of pasta was the challenge, so the first task was to decide which one. After much deliberation

me; “So kiddos, it’s spag bol, ham or chicken. What is everyone fancying?”

kids; “chicken”

Words are kept to a minimum between the ages of 13 & 17 in our house!

We went for a Penne Alla Rusticana – a tomato sauce and chicken & bacon pasta dish and our meal also came with 2 sides of garlic bread, great for mopping up the sauce. (Being vegetarian at this point took a side step as both Maddie, Jordi’s girlfriend and I were left to pick out the meat!)

We were on a tight schedule for getting back to pick up Ronnie from my mum & step dad’s so not having to browse a menu for too long meant we’d ordered drinks and our main dish within less than 10 minutes of arriving and the food being on our table pretty quickly afterwards. This all seemed way too easy and stress free!

Try out the La Famiglia sharing dish at Prezzo wile combining precious quality family time
Arriving in a large sharing bowl, it was up to me to play mum dishing up to each of us. There was none of that diving in, each man for themselves business, it was all very conservative. (Probably due to Jordi’s girlfriend joining us.) And bizarrely, with 3 teenagers in the group, we had leftovers, even after I  dished up a round of seconds, sneaky making sure we all got a share of peppers to boost our 5 a day.


My sharing style is based on age order for the kids. Even with Ky’s appetite catching up with his brother’s, it still has to be quite tactical as Jordi will always demand the biggest share in honour of being the eldest and then the smallest portion for yours truly. It must be a family trait as I remember my mum always having the smallest portions when we were growing up.

Try out the La Famiglia sharing dish at Prezzo wile combining precious quality family time
Just over an hour later, after washing it all down with ice creams, we were on our merry way. Our conclusion;

This was a perfect midweek treat for a busy family without getting in the way of homework, yet still long enough to spend much-needed quality time. Moments like these are perfect for catching up while sharing a nice meal and definitely one we’ll be doing again sometime.

Try out the La Famiglia sharing dish at Prezzo wile combining precious quality family time
This post is an entry for the BritMums #PrezzoLaFamiglia Challenge, sponsored by Prezzo.

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