Parenting teenagers is an emotional rollercoaster. Throw puberty and the menopause into the mix and you have a toxic cocktail of hormones which is guaranteed to result in a battle.
There is something quite cruel about the twist of fate that places the two biggest rites of passage in a woman’s life side by side simultaneously. The optimistic stance is of course that both phases are about new beginnings. The flip side, however, is that the former is about growing up and blossoming and the latter growing old and ageing. They mark the beginning and end of an era and each comes with its own challenges.
I speak from a position of experience as such has been the scenario in our house for the last five years. My daughter and I hit puberty and the peri-menopause simultaneously, transforming our home into a veritable maelstrom of hormones.
Wails of “it’s not fair” and “leave me alone” from my daughter and I were largely indistinguishable and invariably my husband and son found themselves caught in the crossfire, as the collision of her rising hormones and my falling ones proved to be quite explosive.
Despite our lives essentially playing out in reverse, the bald facts were that aside from the obvious factors of our age and appearance, there was little to distinguish between us emotionally. We were both equally irrational, anxious, tearful and irritable.
My daughter was locked in a teenage battle with her changing body shape, acne, growing pains and fatigue and I was locked in a midlife one with my wrinkles, aching joints, expanding midriff, forgetfulness and exhaustion.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was a lot of humour too. I am grateful for the close bond we share and invariably, as is the way with all good girl battles, we would find ourselves at the end laughing and commiserating with each other about the trials and tribulations of being a woman.
In hindsight our familiar tendency to communicate saved our household and my teens saw me as the imperfect human we can all be sometimes. After all, life isn’t always a bed of roses, it comes with its fair share of knocks and human weakness is part of that. The important part is to use those knocks to learn and move forward.
Change is never easy and whilst the journey associated with puberty and menopause forces you to think about new beginnings, no foray into a new life stage is complete without at least a cursory nod of recognition to what lies at the end.
For me the emphasis on the start and the end of a journey was never more prevalent than when I received a shock cancer diagnosis. As my daughter matured and embraced all that the next phase of life as a young woman had to offer, my new-found positivity and enthusiasm for the dawn of midlife suddenly seemed futile as the rug was pulled from beneath my feet.
My emotions shifted somewhat. It might not have been easy getting to this midlife point but I had done it and was feeling pretty good about myself and what lay ahead. Fear of course is the presiding emotion in these situations, but as a parent it is more for your children. My son was at university, the hard work with him was complete. My daughter, however, still had a way to go.
We had shared so much, she and I. I became scared for her. Scared that she would not have anyone to guide her through the final phase of her journey into adulthood. Scared that she would be alone on all the future transitions in a woman’s life.
Every girl needs a mentor, a female role model and whilst I might have been an irrational one at times, I hoped that I was a good one.
I rallied my closest girlfriends, I talked to them about her, shared her passions, her fears, her idiosyncrasies, my hopes and dreams for her future and asked them to promise to look out for her should everything go tits up. After all there is only so much an older brother and father can help with.
Six months on and there is light at the end of my tunnel once more. I have endured surgery and experienced the harsh reality of a surgical menopause and been given hope for the future, for now at least.
With every cloud there is a silver lining and ironically mine is that my family feel I have emerged a more mellow version of my former self. It’s good to know that God has a sense of humour too!