I’ve been feeling old lately; my grey roots come back quicker than they used to, my face takes at least an hour to look normal in the mornings, and my knickers have become high-rise elasticated torture devices designed to contain the hateful middle age spread.
What’s worse is the fact that the eldest child has just turned 13; a date which loomed ominously on the calendar for months, like a death knell to any lingering belief that I was still a ‘young mum’, rather than the fully paid up veteran I actually am.
Being the mother of a teenager is a big responsibility, and I’ve decided to mark the occasion by offering her some advice which might help her on her way. So here it is:
Thirteen – wow, how did that happen? Is it really that long since we met? The day you were born was the worst and best day of my life. Nothing could have prepared me for the tsunami of pain which tore through my body that day; wave after wave of agonising contractions which seemed to go on for hours. Actually they did go on for hours; 16 to be precise.
Sixteen hours of terror, blood and tears, but then suddenly it was over – like the calm following the storm – and there you were, staring up at me with those beautiful blue eyes; this perfect pink girl. It was love at first sight. You changed my life that day.
So, what am I going to tell you? It's not as if I have all the answers yet, we're all learning, all of the time, but here's a few things I jotted down.
1) Don’t follow the crowd. You are so bright and creative and people are naturally drawn to you, so don’t shy away from that, embrace it. It’s better to be your original self than a poor copy of someone else - even if people don't fully appreciate you for it to begin with. Never lose your individuality; it’s what makes you who you are.
2) Next – and I really mean this – never diet. Dieting steals the joy from life. Be kind to your body, think carefully about what you feed it, keep it active, and you will never need to worry about your weight. It took me 28 years to figure this out (and I still struggle with it), so consider this advice a gift.
3) Try not to take yourself too seriously. I mean it – learn to laugh at yourself. We both know this isn’t always easy for you, but trust me it makes all the difference when times get tough.
4) Be nice to your brothers. Now don’t roll your eyes! Yes, I know they’re annoying, noisy, nit-infested stink-bugs, but they will always stick up for you against enemies, even if they think you’re being an idiot. Because that’s what families do. Trust me on this one. Plus they adore you, even if you don’t always see it.
5) Never perm your hair – I know you like curls, but curling tongs will do exactly the same job without the commitment. This comes from someone who spent a year growing one out – I’ll never get that time, or self-respect, back.
6) The next one is simple but so many people don’t get it; be kind. It costs nothing and can make all the difference to someone. There will always be people who are cruel simply because they can be. Stay away from them and surround yourself with other kind people – it makes for a nicer life.
7) Say ‘yes’ to as many things as you can – it can bring you to some surprising places.Take risks and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, because that’s when life gets interesting. It’s a short life and as your grandfather used to say, we’re a long time dead.
8) This next one sounds like a cliché, but dance as often as you can – even if you’re alone – especially if you’re alone. Yes I know your ballet career began and ended before you were four (you really shouldn’t have shoved your dance teacher like that), and yes you have two left feet, but it doesn’t matter! Nobody can be unhappy when they’re pirouetting around the kitchen.
I shall finish now, I know your iPhone is calling. But I’ll just leave you with this last thought. Life is just a series of good and bad decisions, of triumphs and screw-ups. What sets you apart is how you deal with them. But just remember, your mum’s always here to help.