Now or Never

From terrible teens to total gratitude: a thank you three decades in the making

After more than 30 years, Julia Doherty surprised her Mom with a phone call to finally say thanks for being there during her teenage years.
Patricia Nicholls with her daughter Julia Doherty at age 28. (David Nicholls)

Julia Doherty was compelled to fill out our Now or Never list after listening to the episode about revisiting things you did as a kid.

When she was asked to share the "one person I need to thank right now," Doherty immediately typed, "My mum for standing by me through all my terrible teens."

Doherty, now 50 and living in Surrey, B.C., said she repeatedly got into trouble as a teenager. At 13, she attended school in Hong Kong, where she lived with her family. 

"I spent most of my time outside the classroom door," she remembered. "I was a bully. I was expelled for being 'leader of the junior Mafia'."

As part of her expulsion, Julia was required to promise that she would not attend any of the schools in Hong Kong that served expats.

Julia Doherty, when she was 'leader of the junior Mafia', at age 13. (David Nicholls)

So Doherty was sent to a new boarding school, this time in her home country of England.

But halfway through the year she was expelled again. Her mother, Patricia Nicholls, flew to England from Hong Kong to sort things out. Doherty remembered meeting her at the airport with trepidation, only to be greeted with a big hug and a promise from her mom that they would one day find the right school for her daughter. 

Julia Doherty at age 16, taken at her English boarding school. (Patricia Nicholls)

"She was always there, forgiving without approving," said Doherty. "She never judged me. She never punished me for my behaviours. It was always a sense of redirection."

The Now or Never list prompted Doherty to call her mom, who is now 78 and living in Wales.  

"Not only did you allow me to become the person I am," Doherty told her mom. "You allowed me to be the mom that I am."

Today, Doherty has two teenagers of her own. Nicola is 13 and Heather is 15 — the very same ages Doherty was when she experienced difficulties in school.

Julia Doherty with her mom Patricia and eldest daughter Heather. (Jackie Williams)

Doherty said that it is thanks to her mom that she is able to see beyond her daughters' behaviours and understand that they still need her... even when they are angry.

"You weren't that horrible," laughed her mom.

"When I look back, I think of who I could have become if I hadn't had you to support me," admitted Doherty. "I feel like my life would have been very, very different."