For my beautiful daughter on your 13th birthday,
What changes these last 13 years have brought for us both. It is hard to put into words all that has happened, all we have shared, how much we have both grown, in so many ways, during your life so far. Sometimes when I look at you I feel so honoured to have you as a daughter, to be the one who has watched you become the incredible young woman I see today, to be the one you turn to when the world outside our home is harsh and cruel and uncertain. Proud doesn’t even come close to how I feel when I think of who you are. I love your passion, your enthusiasm, your determination, your joyful spirit and your contagious laugh. I love the person you are growing up to be and I love looking back at who you were as a toddler and young child and seeing things I didn’t see at the time – hints and glimpses of the person you would grow up to be. I imagine we have some tumultuous times ahead as you enter your teenage days, but despite that I am so excited to see how you grow and flourish over the coming years and what path your life will take.
We have had so much fun together, shared so many happy times, laughed so much and developed our own private world of understanding so that we can communicate so much without words. I know you so well, you are a part of me, but I also know there is so much about you that I don’t know or understand, and as the years pass there will be more and more of you that you keep hidden from me, and whilst I know this is exactly how it should be, I already feel wistful for those days when I was the centre of your universe. We are close though, we have so much fun together and talk so easily, and I remain hopeful that I will always be the person you turn to when you are in need or want to share good news.
Last night after school you were distraught after some really mean girls at school were sending horrible messages about you and one of them threatened to ruin your birthday. I said you could take today off school if you wanted, but you bravely set off this morning, keen to see your friends and show off your new-to-you jacket and giant birthday badge. I admire you so much for not being scared and for standing up for yourself. And I am proud of myself for nurturing you well enough that you feel able to do this. You stand by your convictions and your sense of self, you know yourself to be a kind person, and you are able to look for evidence of how many people do like you even when it seems to you as though the whole of your school is against you.
I have so many happy memories from the past 13 years – swimming in the sea, camping and building fires, laughing at the bunnies, ice skating, going to Thorpe Park and to see Taylor Swift at Wembley, walks on the moors and in the woods, watching you splash around in muddy puddles and hearing you laugh and sing in bed talking to your toys. We have laughed so much, squabbled quite a bit, and had some rows over things so silly that even at the time we couldn’t stop ourselves from laughing. I have spent so many hours watching you in awe, amazed at your imagination, your ability to play and create, your sense of joy in the world, your ability to be completely alive. You have taught me so much about what is important and what it means to truly love someone and put their needs first.
Being a mum is tough in so many ways, mostly because my own experience of mothering was so lacking, so distorted and damaging, that I’ve never known what was okay and ‘good enough’ and what wasn’t. It seems as though I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, doing things and speaking in ways that I thought were okay because that’s how my own parents treated me, or acting out in ways that felt totally out of my control because you triggered all the trauma that has lain dormant in me. On good days I can see you are okay though, and that for all my mistakes I haven’t damaged you in the way my own parents damaged me. And whilst mothering you sometimes hurts because it shines a light onto all that I never had growing up, it has given me the opportunity to break the cycle of trauma and abuse that has been passed from generation to generation in both sides of my family for decades. You will have your own healing to do, of course you will – everyone does because love is not perfect and all humans are flawed – but I don’t think you will have to travel to the places I’ve had to in order to do this.
As you turn 13 I wish for so many things for you in the coming years, but most of all I wish that you will continue to know who you are and that you will allow yourself to be really seen and present in the world. I hope that you will hold true to everything you believe in and I promise that I will always be here to hear your ideas about the world as you learn new things and discover new ideas. I promise to support you in your decisions and guide you without shaping your path for you. And I will always provide a safe haven for you to return to.