Got in, my teenager is sobbing uncontrollably in her bedroom. Her face is white, her dyed black hair is sticking up all over the place. She is dressed entirely in black with Dr. Martin style boots. She looks just like me at 17.
I ask her what is wrong. She refuses to answer. I can't stand this. If I'm unhappy, if I'm crying, I will say why. She won't. She glares at me. I can't cope. I can cope with the crying but not with the lack of communication.
"You don't understand" she wails. "Nobody understands".
I stand there helplessly. Her crying get louder. A feeling of panic rises within me. I have no one to talk to about this. No family, no partner. She scares me. Is her behaviour normal? People say it is. But I always feel guilty because she hasn't got a dad. In contrast, I used to talk to my mum. My mum didn't actually want me to talk to her, but I did, I insisted. I externalise everything.
"Is it school?" I ask. "Have you fallen out with someone? Did something get stolen?".
In the past she has cried when she has done something wrong. She cries so much that by the time that she admits what she has done wrong, I forgive her, because I'm so relieved that it's not more serious.
In reaction to my questions, she screams: "Leave me alone. It's nothing. I'm always crying. I cry all day every day. Everybody hates me. I'm sick of people asking me what's wrong."
"Well when you are ready to talk come and see me" I leave. Go to the kitchen, clear up, start to make dinner.
A little later I pass her bedroom.
"Come and sit next to me mum, while I do my homework" she says, calmer. I sit next to her. I touch her little hand, her long delicate fingers.
I persuade her to come into the kitchen while I cook. I have a bottle of wine open. She pours herself a glass. I don't mind her having a little, from time to time, but she pours a full glass.
"That's a lot" I say.
"Oh yeah" she giggles.
Why don't I do anything about it? Because I'm tired and worried. Because I'm scared of dealing with her temper. Because I don't really care that much if she has a glass of wine. In my head I hear the criticism of my family, you shouldn't allow her to do this, you've got to be stronger.
"Christ you are going to end up an alcoholic on top of everything else" I mutter.
"On top of being mad you mean?" she taunts.She sits in the rocking chair, tiny, pretty, her blood red lips stand out from her powdered face.
"I can't stand it when you cry" I admit "even when you were a baby, I couldn't stand it."
We eat and chat. The atmosphere is nice. We talk about her stupid Biology teacher. We talk about Maths. We talk about whether Paul McCartney is dead. Then we talk about boyfriends. Mine. I had a really bad relationship from 2002-6. The guy wasn't very nice to me. I got very messed up by it. She got caught in the cross-fire. I still feel guilty. Another thing to feel guilty about. She hated him. But she hates them all. If she doesn't like them, she is so rude and hostile, the atmosphere is uncomfortable. Especially as the men I meet are not very mature, are not very interested in me, are not there, it turns out, for the long haul.
"They are creepy" she says "some of them flirt with me. You shouldn't be interested in men that flirt with me. Why can't you get nice boyfriends like my friends' mums".I feel helpless. Only one flirted, possibly, or maybe he was merely interested in the thoughts of a young person. What can I say? Of course they are going to look at her. She is young and beautiful. I feel such a failure.
"But what about the nice ones?" I say "You were horrible then too. By embarrassing me in front of them".
It's true. If she does, by some miracle, like them, it's no better. She puts me down. "Muuum, you are sooo stupid/not getting it/gullible/know nothing about music" she will interject at regular intervals. Not a good look. It makes me look old and unfashionable.
"Why do you do that?" I ask."Why do you make it difficult for me even when you like them? It's not very nice."
"I'm not nice." she says "I don't care about other people".
I feel like crying.
"Go away" I say. "You will feel bad about this one day. When you are out every night and I'm in, growing old on my own, you will feel bad."Tears prick my eyes.
"That's never going to happen" my 14 year old says " I will never go out. Nobody likes me."
She sees that I am upset:
"See. That's why we can't talk."
She goes to her bedroom.