Hello my lovely lump.
How are you today?
What you up to?
The lump stirs a little.
An eye lamely and seemingly disrespectfully starts to focus. Fingers slow their manic dance upon the phone screen to now not much more than a gentle waltz.
‘You alright?’ the kindly parent voice repeats, upbeat, positive but not too positive, trying to get the tone just right to avoid the spit of catastrophic invasion of a private grief.
‘What?’ the lump irritatedly replies, the dawning realisation spreading across their face that one, and god forbid potentially both AirPods may need to be removed by this inconsiderate invasive interrogation.
‘You ok? What you up to?’
The lump slinks – more awkwardly – back beneath the flotsam of random cushions.
Another missed opportunity for connection, for love to blossom and shower fruits of conversation. No loving eye contact, no chance of that long-longed-for hug like we used to have.
Turning slowly, not biting the bate like some wyley salmon who has swam these waters before; counting slowly to ten – AGAIN the pain of a missed hug momentarily overwhelms the parent.
Those hugs of joy around the neck.
The frightened hugs around the legs.
The snuggly hugs upon the lap.
The hot hugs as sleep finally arrived.
The heartbroken sobbing hugs of rejection.
The coming round ‘I’m all right now’ hug after a fall.
The Lump stirs.
The phone is casually but carefully dropped upon the sofa. AirPods gently removed and then with the elasticity and ingenuity of the ultimate magicians assistant – by yet another uniquely creative route – the Lump extricates themselves from their cacoon of cushions.
(How is it that kids can access and egress and in-between navigate the four corners, the depths and the heights of a sofa without ever just walking, sitting and standing as the rest of the species does every day?)
Now upright, homo-sapien-erectus-loved -lumpy-one – walking with the uniform of odd socks, logos and hoody but now temporarily bereft of the means of a selfie – eye contact is yet still avoided.
The conversation script of the past few minutes continues to be rehearsed in the parents mind.
Will it be alright on the night?
Life is not a rehearsal and yet there has been no practice for parenting a teenager, a teenager bereft, a teenager all at sea with life, themselves everything and ‘nothin’
No more easy child distractions, no more monster chasing, no more tickling, no more ‘What say we just ..?’ no more ‘Who wants to help..?’ no longer the superhero who can fix everything, make things better, protect, perform, distract or make penny’s appear from behind an ear or pull a nose off with a thumb.
The allure of the fridge is now greater than the safe embrace of a parent.
‘What’s for tea?’ a more likely refrain than ‘Love you’
‘What can I get you to eat?’ – a list of snacks and favourites is quickly easily rattled off – hoping, that one offer fits the bill.
Some atomic fizzy chemical drink. a yoghurt and then some crisps are quickly assembled and plonked upon the kitchen table.
No carefully chosen china, no napkin required but at least a spoon snatched from the draining board, forensically inspected, is selected for the classy chocolate yoghurt with caramel and chocolate clusters (reader – no real food was hurt in the making of this ‘meal’)
Standing at the table side the food begins to be consumed. Ravenously always ravenously as if never fed before.
The lump mumbles…‘Do you think school will go back before summer?’
And in that moment many of the fears, the questions, the gossip, the here-say, the worries and the toxic chemicals of anxious emotions – gently calmly spill out onto the kitchen floor.
The well planned speeches, the angry diatribes, the Obama-esque rousing speeches, the exocet counsellor questions evaporate and yet scream out like the digital illuminated signs of Times Square.
‘I don’t know pet what do you think? – the safe straight bat response played with the gentle wrist of the finest holder of the willow bat.
A gentle seesaw of swirling conversation ensues.
The apple placed carefully beside the e- numbered ‘stuff’ is crunched and slurped the core offered kindly to the ever loyal dog.
Dreamed of post exam adventures – dashed
Promised treats – in doubt
Hazy lazy summer post exam days and gatherings and larks and japes cancelled before they’d even been schemed.
Post exam late nights chilling, hanging, talking, planning – no more.
Without real warning.
No time to prepare to come down slowly from this cliff edge roller coaster.
Crash Burn Empty pain.
All aired in a jazz of emotions and feelings and hurt and fear and frustration and unjustness and some guilt.
The parent silently recites – ‘You’ve made the life I lead foolish’ but now is perhaps not the right time to introduce the lump to the beauty and the art, the pathos and the joy that is Joni Mitchell that Actually was the Lovely Emma Thompson
The parent nervously fingers her necklace.
Dare I hug?
Maybe just a shoulder scrunch?
Just a quick one – in and out?
A tongue licked yoghurt pot is placed carefully at the side…carefully so the balletically placed tea spoon – remains balanced proudly on the rim. A quick wipe of the mouth with a hoodie sleeve.
(The parent resists questioning why this eco global warrior in the making can not yet put a yoghurt pot in the recycling bin beneath the sink.
Sorry Greta we’ll leave this for another day!)
For now we are focussed on upcycling dreams and sustainable goals and expectations and old habits.
Lou Tice I think it was, once said ‘Without a goal we die’
And goals don’t just come along like buses … maybe they do… but not all buses go to where we want to go. And whilst it may be fun to jump on a bus to see where it takes us…when you’re down and alone it’s hard to even see let alone choose a bus.
For some COVID-19 will provide the goal the ‘need’, the challenge that drives them on and helps them find energy and resource we never new we had.
For others of us its just one more overwhelming wave.
And many of us bob around in the middle – buoyant one minute deflated and drowning the next.
Our teenagers will bounce back and at some point spring out of the gloop of dispair with all the gymnastic elasticity they do when entering or egressing an enveloping sofa.
Let’s give them a menu of time, of space, of choice to feed and reignite their value of themselves, their past work and effort and their potential, their worth.
Let’s gently re-reveal their point and purpose, jobs and deeds they can still do well and perhaps they do best. Jobs and deeds of social. personal, authentic value
Goals of THEIR choosing for today tomorrow, next week, next month, next term and try’s is next phase of life.
Let them help us as our way of helping them.
They may not put the yoghurt pot in the recycling and they pretty much certainly won’t put the recycling out at night in case they are seen – ‘embarrasin’
They may not surface ‘till noon and then only to re submerge or dive into the sofa with a double pike and three twists – (degree of difficulty 3.5)
They may start a job with gusto and then fizzle and flail about.
They will most certainly irritate the bejeebers out of us and press every button we ever had.
The phone will not leave their fingers, the screen their gaze or their friends their immediate affirming value.
They are recycling.
They are re-rooting in order to grow again. Lying fallow.
We farm on.
The lump turns.
The lump makes eye contact – there is a thaw in their eyes, love in their heart.
‘What’s for tea?’