We have been running Mothers Uncovered since 2008. There are many trying times when your children are small, but somehow you always have a handle on it, because you are still in charge. You hang out in the playground after school, you go to see their end of term work, sports days or performances, you know who their friends are because if they want to see them outside of school, you need to be the one that organises it. You are friends, or at the very least, acquaintances, with the parents of their friends. You are still the boss, even though it doesn’t feel like it when they are refusing to get out of the bath or demanding another bedtime story.
Oh, what would you give now to be able to read one more bedtime story! As soon as they go to ‘big’ school, everything changes. Not least because the school is probably quite a bit further away from your house. And bigger. A whole lot bigger. As is your child, who perilously soon will tower over you. As one of our facilitators wrote, ‘Would he suddenly realise that being bigger than me, he could use his stature to take advantage of me, defy me, challenge me more than he would if he was still smaller than me? Would this alter how he saw me and how he saw himself with me? I suppose I was questioning how deep his respect for me went? There was some fear about what I may discover and I was certainly shaken by the gatecrashing entrance of this potential game-changer.’
It’s not just that, of course. it’s the fact that you don’t know who their friends are now. The fact that they cover their phone when you walk into the room. The fact that their language is peppered with phrases that you don’t understand (and swearing of course) or that they roll their eyes at you.
The fact, quite simply, that you are not the centre of their world any more.
Nor do you wish to be. It’s pretty easy to cast your mind back to when you were a teenager. Would you want to hang out with your parents? Of course not. Yet, it is so brutal being on the receiving end of it.
So, we decided to create a group for these wounded foot soldiers. A non-judgemental, honest, peer support group for parents and carers of teenage children. A chance to share the triumphs and challenges of this time and acknowledge the sometimes painful transition of your role as centre stage in your children’s lives to somewhere in the wings.
And how the floodgates opened from those who have attended the sessions. It’s like they’ve done ten rounds with Mike Tyson (old school reference!). They are full of pride and love, but also rage, sadness and fear. Who ARE these people who live in their house?
‘I expected that I would be absolutely prepared, unshockable, understanding – and that they wouldn’t do anything that I did when I was their age. I still love them like it actually hurts, but the truth is I don’t like a lot of what I see or hear of their adolescence.’ (parent of a teen)
We will be running more sessions in 2021.