My daughter laughed today.  Genuinely and heartily and, as her face lit up, my heart filled with joy; hope; love. The much-needed reassurance that she still knows how to, and she still can. She’s still in there. That wee girl who laughed and sang her way through the first 10 years of her life. She’s still there.

wee yin

If you’ve ever experienced darkness of your own, you think you’re equipped to deal with someone else’s. But it’s not always what you imagine it to be. They resent your experience, your relatability. This is their journey, not yours. They don’t want you to say “listen, I felt like this too…” because, in all reality, you didn’t. You can’t possibly have felt the exact or precise thing that is causing them distress. And then you’ve lost their faith. You’ve dismissed their individual pain as common place. And with a troubled teen, this is catastrophic.

8 years ago, when my daughter was 10, life changed in so my ways.  As an adult, I struggled to cope with the changes, but I was told repeatedly, when I voiced concerns for Arran’s ability to cope, “children are resiliant, don’t underestimate her and create problems that aren’t there .”

papa

But she wasn’t resilient. She increasingly couldn’t cope with people her own age, with social media, with grown-ups, with loss and grief, with everyone ‘knowing’ what was best for her and, ultimately, with life.

But she smiled today.  She laughed and joked with her brothers; she laughed and told us she loved us. She loves us. She is there.

I just wish this was the journey back to ‘Arran’. To the vibrant, funny, intelligent, beautiful and unique person she was always meant to be. The person she hides from the world; The person who takes her brother’s Superman lunch box to work and doesn’t care what people think about this; The person who dislikes her siblings intensely until they share stories of being hurt by the actions of another, then she has to be held back; The person who is selfless, loyal and generous when it comes to friendship (until the first hint of distance, then she’s done). The person who doesn’t know where she fits in in this world. The person she pretends isn’t bothered by anything. Pretending to be heartless, souless and so full of hate so that people will walk away first – saves a lot of trouble in the long run, right?

And I want to remind her of this the next time we have to go to A&E; the next time we have to dress wounds, rub in bio-oil to lessen scars and soothe the self-hatred. But that’s a different Arran. She wouldn’t recognise the person I’ve described.  This warm, carefree, hilarious and wonderful individual that she is.  That Arran is desperate and alone in the darkness.

Bit she’s still there.  Because she laughed today.

half face

People tell me all the time “She’ll get there”. I’m sure she will. But where? How does anyone know where she is going when she doesn’t know herself – did you? We expect so much of our young people, purely because they are young.  We expect them to cope with some of the most difficult situations during the most significant periods of their life, arriving unscathed into adulthood.  Adults receive:”take as much time as you need”, young people get: “that’s awful…but shouldn’t you be at school?”

I often think I should have done things differently; should be doing things differently.  She is angry at the world, at the people closest to her for their inability to change the past, promise the future.  I spend time selfishly crying in corners when that is wasted energy and self-indulgent.  I was a troubled and dark teen and the irony of the situation is not lost on me.  I too felt like a square peg in a round hole, felt ‘different’ to the people I lived with, couldn’t work out what my place in the family was.  So I should be a guru for Arran, not public enemy number one.  Why are we not kindred spirits? But parent/child relationships don’t work like that.

I see the sons and daughters of my friends on social media celebrating life in all its glory, discovering adulthood like something out of an American ‘coming of age’ film.  Trips to the  beach, late night drives for ice-cream and ‘spring break’.  And I feel a pang of emotion.  Sadness? Guilt? Envy?  I want so badly for her to have this, this discovery of life, these memories.  Friendship. Youth.  I get so frustrated when I see her intentionally poisoning the well, limiting her options, wishing she would understand that not everyone needs to be tested, not everyone will let her down.  But, on the other hand, there is another emotion.  There is pride.  She is unashamedly her.  She is bold enough to be alone should it be a better option than being where she is misunderstood or undervalued; she is bold enough to say “nah, that’s not me. This is me, take it or leave it” (albeit, usually with painful consequences) She is bold enough to be that girl who turns up to work with her brother’s Superman lunchbox and say “What?”  to anyone who gives her a sideway look.  Despite her desperate attempts to cease to exist, she is still here.  She is bold enough to say “Mum.  I’m sorry.  I need help.  Will you help me?”

And for all the time I say “I just can’t do this. This is too hard.”  I will.  Because I’m her mum.

And because she laughed today.

bros

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13 thoughts on “Arran

  1. Somebody sent this to me today and I’m reading it with the biggest lump in my throat because this is my daughter too and this is very similar to our story. I want my happy go lucky girl back and some days I’m not sure she is there any more. I hope to see her laugh one day soon but I equally hope to see her cry because it means she is alive and not dead inside. Right now I know she feels the latter. So hard to parent this isn’t it? We just need to keep on loving and hanging on so desperately hard to these little moments and chinks of light. Lovely post.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. In a way, I’m really glad that you could relate to this and we can take solace in the fact that neither us, or our daughters, are alone, but mostly I’m just so sad for you that you do relate on such a level. Our daughters should laugh and cry at will, feel in control and not controlled by this blackness that consumes them. Chinks of light is a perfect way to describe it. It was a chink of hope, countable in hours of time but now seems so very long ago, lost to the darkness once again. But yes, we hang on, loving and hoping and soothing our own wounds with theirs, remembering and being reminded of the person beyond the black fog. I wish you and your daughter well and look forward to hearing more from you on any ‘chinks’ and little moments, I’m sure they would keep me going too. Thank you again.

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  2. Ahh!! This is beautiful Jen! Fantastic read that brought a tear or two to my eyes. Unconditional love as a mother shines through here, something I couldn’t really grasp before I read this. Changed my outlook on that entirely! As a teenager, I don’t know where I’m going still, but I really think how that is actually perceived that is what can bring it through as either a positive or a negative, finding yourself and where you fit in can either be a blessing or a curse, but I’ve found that’s for me to decide, as I’m sure it is for a lot of teenagers, most importantly Arran. I’ve always tried my very best to help her through these tough spells, and even though I’m also still trying to find my feet in this world, I will always be there for her too. For all that I’ve seen of Arran throughout these past few years, for all that she’s been through and for all the kindness she has shown me also, she deserves all the happiness in the world and if I can contribute to that in any way at all, that will bring a smile to my face. 🙂

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  3. This is so sad Jennifer … But so beautiful & your love for Arran shines through X Being a parent can be so very tough …but those laughs can make it so worthwhile. I hope with all of my heart that Arran has a lot more laughs & I am sending you all a load of love xx

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    1. Thank you for this. Everyone tells you the ‘baby bit’ is the hard bit…it gets easier as they get older…Bit parenting is parenting. It never gets easier, just different. I’m sure even my own mum would agree, as a parent to a grown-up but she still wipes my tears and catches me when I fall. Thank you ♡

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  4. So as the tears fall I feel so much of this , Arran u are a fantastic , kind , beautiful girl with a lovely personality my kids all think u are great and so do I xxxxx

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  5. Arran is lucky to have you as a mum Jen. It shines through in your writing how much you adore and want to understand what she is going through. I’m glad she laughed today for you and for her x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too bud. Selfishly, I really needed the ‘normality’ for once. And it was good for her too. Unconditional love from 2 wee boys who continuously just forget the bad and embrace all that is good is both medicinal and magical for her. Families forgive and forget what others can’t, she’ll see that she can keep pushing us away but we’ll stand firm for all we’re worth. It just has to be enough ♡

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      1. They say laughter is the best medicine. Just how under stated that is, is evident here.
        Jennifer and family never be afraid to laugh at life and what it brings. Life is to short not too.
        Never forget you are all wonderful folk. Keep smiling

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