[English Madeleines, testing the recipe for Vintage Cakes which comes out in September]
Before I had children, I used to wonder what the teenage years would be like. Not with great relish and anticipation, I have to say, but more with a 'will-we-won't-we screw up and how does anyone get through without a litany of horror stories' sense of foreboding.
Tom and Alice are 19 now. For seven years Simon has been reminding me that 'a mother's place is in the wrong' which is both reassuring and bloody irritating. Because it's mostly true. Mothers - and fathers - are there to take a battering, to bounce back up when you have just been metaphorically flattened, and to continue with the shoe-finding, exam-testing, lift-giving support system, and the unconditional love. It has to be unconditional, because it would otherwise be like negotiating with terrorists.
This morning I got up early to go to an appointment. I saw the back view of Alice as she went off to work, and had about a minute's conversation with Tom before he disappeared to work, too. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. They are both working incredibly hard (often 12-15 hour days), Tom on riverboats for the summer, and Alice in guest relations for her gap year. And what a difference this last year has made. Free from the horrible, relentless pressure of exams and anxieties about university applications, able to make their own decisions, in a position to pay for their own shoes (still getting lost) and holidays, they have become young adults. They are still quick to answer back (too often making me laugh), lethally clear-sighted, and desperately untidy, but they can cope in the big, wide world of work and university, take responsiblity, and find and keep jobs. One day, maybe, they will also remember to take their washing out of the machine.
I know now that you just have to have a little faith in yourself and your teenagers.