Most parents know the dreaded time will arrive. It often happens around the time of the thirteenth birthday but, with the ever early advancement of puberty that is occurring in children today, you should be on the look-out for symptoms from the age of about ten onwards. There is no telling which way it will go but be assured it will occur.
The first time is always the worst. With subsequent children you will be prepared because by then your friends have had children and you realise that there is nothing wrong with your first born, in fact, they will all go through it at various stages and in various degrees. I have had three children so have a fair bit of experience in this field. My eldest didn't start until she was almost fifteen. A late starter but then girls are always different. Her time through this period was a relatively short six months but boy, did she manage to cram some stuff in during that time, ageing me by a good five years.
Next came my eldest son who started at two and at eighteen years of age, hasn't grown out of it yet. My youngest son started at eleven and was out of it by the age of twelve. Which just goes to prove that if you have enough children you can eventually get it right!
So what is this dreaded event? It is the day your child wakes up, possessed by someone else entirely. You think I exaggerate? Oh you have a treat coming! The most typical example would be my youngest son, if I tell you what the other two put me through there will be a queue around the block for sterilisation!
Anyway, I digress. My little boy was born with huge brown eyes, black hair and the cutest smile that was a permanent fixture on his face. Being premature, I felt very protective of him and, if I'm honest, probably babied him a bit. We were very close as he grew up and it was a pleasure to see him experience the different aspects of realisation, of learning and of growing. And then he turned eleven and my baby disappeared for almost a year.
His neatly shaped and shaved hair became unkempt while he insisted he was growing it. All attempts at getting him in the shower fell on deaf ears. His cute little boy's clothes were exchanged with friends for over sized faded black garments that he claimed were 'goth clothing'. Along with the goth clothing and unkempt hair came a paleness befitting of a vampire due to his hiding in his room with his mates listening to devil music, oops, I mean metal music, always get confused with those two.
The little mother/son chats we had were swapped for my nagging and his grunts. After some time, you can learn to interpret the grunts although it doesn't matter too much, they pretty much all mean the same thing. This phase doesn't simply consist of goth clothing and music, they adopt the attitude that goes with it which, in short, means the world is against them and everything is depressing.
But why I hear you ask? It's because the hormones kick in and they want to express their individualism which means going along with their crowd of peers and doing their best to shock their parents. My advice to all parents who are either going through this or have it to come. Do not react. Tell them that they look lovely, can you borrow that black lipstick or boots that look like spare wheels and welcome their vampire friends.
Trust me, this phase will be short lived and one day they will turn a corner and your children will be returned to you.
Parenting expert Catherine Harvey looks at why a youth would want to wear goth clothing in an attempt to fit in with their peers.