As an antidote to exasperation, here is a list of just some of the things I love about my wonderful challenging children.
1. J calls a couple of nights ago. He tells me he has done something and I will go ballistic. I tense up. He has already lost his passport. He tells me he agreed to donate £5 by test to Cancer Research. They then called him and persuaded him to donate £9 every three months. “They have my name and card number and everything” he tells me in a panicked voice. I try not to laugh and explain he can cancel it if he wants. But this young man, who wanted to do something good, especially as he lost a school friend to cancer, charms and delights me. He has not spent his first term’s money on alcohol or expensive clothes. He tried to do something good.
2. We start watching Game of Thrones at K’s suggestion. She is anxious beforehand, as she thinks we may view her differently for liking a series which is, ahem, somewhat violent and sexually explicit. Within the first episode, I count two beheadings, rape, incest and a child is attacked. K grips my hand as a warning when something yucky is going to happen as a warning. But her enthusiasm warms me, for the families and the different kingdoms, the sense of a sprawling mythology, which unfolds over the enormous books which for her are the best bit, and her delight at her family finding out all this is such a pleasure.
3. L may be gripped by anorexia, but she continues to be a delightful person in every other aspect of her life. She is helpful, delights in walking in the woods or visiting craft shops and carries on searching for jobs in a way that would satisfy the most diehard “get on your bike” politician.
4. J’s photos from College show him grinning with groups of people, usually young women. His gentleness and perpetual goodwill to others shines through. He never says a bad word of anybody, when I devised a cruel nickname for the little shit who threatened him with a knife in school, he told me that it wasn’t fair, because he was nice other times. When K bit him as a baby, when he was a toddler, he responded (after the tears stopped) by cuddling her and saying she mustn’t bite him, because it made him sad. Her look of “Loser” in response was equally priceless.
5. K’s thoughtfulness in trying to find the right presents for people, even to the extent of ordering things from America, touches me. She isn’t showy or flash, she just wants to find the right thing for the right person.
6. Equally, L’s knitting of presents for people – most recently a hand warmer for the Boyfriends mother to cover up a bandage – is a delight. The Boyfriend’s mother declares a wish to adopt her as her own daughter. I smile when L tells me this and think “Back off, she’s mine”
All three of them are funny, affectionate and kind as well as supportive of each other. Their presence warms the house more than the woodburner. Their challenges of anorexia, autism or anxiety means they are not like stereotypical teenagers, if such people even exist. There are no abandoned cigarettes or spliff ends, no staying out until the early hours and no sky high phone or Internet bills. I may wish them to be better, in terms of recovery from anorexia or anxiety, but I could not wish for better people to call my children. I am lucky and love them more than words allow me to express.