Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Teenage years are a killer

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Much-loved King's College student David Gaynor died far too soon. Photo / Dean Purcell
Much-loved King's College student David Gaynor died far too soon. Photo / Dean Purcell

My 22-year-old daughter will graduate from law school this year. A month before her final exams, she will marry her gorgeous fiance and her extended family will enjoy a day of love and celebration.

And there will be enormous relief, at least on my part.

Managing to get my girl to this stage is a miraculous combination of luck, hard work and unconditional love. From the time they are born, you are so aware of your child's fragility.

In their early days, it's their physical fragility that's so scary. Climbing the ladder on the slide by themselves for the first time; learning to ride a bike; being pummelled by waves in the surf - my heart has been in my mouth so many times as I've fought the urge to take her home and wrap her in cotton wool to keep her safe.

It only gets worse as they get older. Then there's their emotional vulnerability to worry about, too.

It's ghastly being a teenager. I wouldn't want to be 16 again for quids. The insecurities, self-doubt, pressure to achieve that mainly comes from within, the heartache when love is not reciprocated - the horror of being trapped in a house with the worst parents in the world.

Nope, age 14 to 17 is a pretty crappy time. But if you can get your child through that, you are paid back a thousand-fold.

The stories in this newspaper last week of the young men of Kawerau taking their lives - and another talented, much-loved young man from King's College who also died far too young - were heartbreaking.

I don't know what it is that would drive someone to take their life, when to all intents and purposes their life hasn't really started. The only thing I can surmise is that they want the pain they're in to end now, in this minute. They don't necessarily want to stop the clock forever.

But for many of them it is a final decision, and the damage they do to the ones they leave behind is catastrophic.

Their friends, school communities and families are left devastated and racked with self-doubt and second guesses.

I have never taken my child's life for granted. Every time she went out as a teenager, I was subconsciously preparing myself for a call or a knock on the door. I was acutely aware as she headed off to parties with friends, all of them beautiful and bolshie and bulletproof, that I might never see her again.

Love is a double-edged sword. The mother of a teenager lives in a constant state of low-level anxiety that they desperately try not to show. I ache for the parents whose children have died needlessly.

The gut-wrenching, mind-altering pain is something I've tried to prepare myself for but mercifully have never known. Not through any superior parenting skills on my part. Just plain luck.

- Herald on Sunday

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