When I was 14, I was a bit of a rebel. I know you'll find that hard to believe and it isn't something I would normally admit to, but really, I was. My mum caught me hanging out of the bathroom window once, smoking one of my dad's Benson & Hedges, and she was on first name terms with the number 66 bus driver due to the amount of visits she had to make into school. Sitting outside the Headmaster's office was becoming a regular occurrence and one day she even brought a packed lunch. Of course, I can look back on this period of my life now, thirty years on, and laugh about it because I did walk away with seven CSEs and go onto do a very worthwhile administrative course at a local business college. But, as a mother myself now, I do realise it could have gone completely the opposite way. I was one of life's jokers; I messed about too much at the back of class and spent too long turning my skirt up at the waist in order to make it shorter. I'd walk to the chippy in town with a group of girls at lunch time, rather than sit in the canteen and eat what was on offer. I won't deny that I hated school but there were times when I enjoyed it and I sometimes look back on those times with a roll of the eyes and a vow that I will never let my daughter get away with messing about in class and kissing a boy behind the bike sheds.
Amy is so very different to how I was back then. Of course times were much different and there wasn't all these health and safety rules and the red tape that now exists. I remember a girl in my class going out with a chap who came to do some work on the roof - he must have been at least 18. She was 15. No one bat an eyelid, yet it was common knowledge around the school which meant teachers would have been aware also. I also remember an ice cream man who parked his van in the school playground and made a fortune out of vulnerable teens - his language was atrocious and his sexual innuendo was something out of a Jimmy Saville biography. He was a dirty old man; a pervert. Yet again, no one bat an eyelid. How did he get through the gates? We used to laugh it off of course, and walk away knowing we were being oggled, but that dirty old ice cream man has stayed in my memory for thirty years.
I know how vulnerable my 14 year old is and it's a lot more vulnerable than I was at that age. She hates the fact that I was "streetwise" because she knows she never will be. I like the fact she is protected at school and supervised, and they don't allow strange men into the playground to sell ice creams. She's doing well at school; is working towards GCSEs next year and a few other qualifications, too. I'm sure she does mess about in class and I'm sure she gets on the wrong side of the odd teacher - heck, I get the phone calls. But my mum was an amazing mum; she supported me every step of the way and never failed to be there when I needed her. Is it the people we mix with that are the influence in our lives, is it the way we are educated? Or is it how we're brought up? Who knows. But what I do know is I'm doing my best as a mother and even though I'm often made to feel like a complete failure by other people as well as my hormonal, stroppy teenager, I can't do more than that.