A Letter to my Daughter on her 18th Birthday
My darling girl,
Wow – I can hardly believe I am writing this. Surely this should be a letter to my eight year old. Eighteen seems surreal – impossible. Yet here we are. So, where to begin?
I don’t need to tell you the story of how I first learned I was having you – you’ve heard it before – but I’ll tell you again anyway, just quickly. I was in a cubicle in the ladies room at work - two pink lines staring up at me - trying desperately to control my emotions. I had honestly never felt anything CLOSE to what I felt at that moment. I was having a baby!
I ran back to my desk (mobile phones barely existed in 1999) to phone your father and tell him – but he didn’t answer. So in desperation I blurted my news to one of the ladies in the office. Your father wasn’t pleased when he learned he wasn’t the first to know, but truth is I literally couldn’t help myself. I just had to share the biggest news of my life – I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
I just knew you would be a girl… and you were the sweetest baby. For the most part, the only time you cried was when you could feel my stress. At those moments I handed you to your Dad and you quickly settled. You were perfect – and I was the exact opposite. I was struck down with postnatal depression and for a few months struggled to do even the most mundane tasks. I was certain I was fucking everything up, including you, yet you remained perfect.
Your brother was born the year after you and that was when I first got a glimpse of your feisty nature. Gosh you knew how to tantrum! You knew what you wanted and demanded it. All of it! You were difficult to handle… but secretly I was pleased. You were SO different to me. I was always scared to say boo… you were the opposite. Difficult as it was at times, part of me was happy that you had found your voice, and your will, so young. That voice and that will have not left you to this day.
You did well at school, and I was so proud on the day of your graduation. I knew you were afraid of what was coming next – but like the trooper you are, you did what you had to do. You applied for University and took extra shifts at McDonald's to get cash. You are desperate for a car. I am so not desperate for you to get a car. But, I know that you will do what you want – you always have.
That is not to say you are uncaring – you are one of the most caring people I have ever met. Sometimes you care too much – about me, about everyone. There are the usual friendship group and boy dramas – the dramas that affect all teenage girls. I want to tell you that it will be OK – that you will meet many people in your lifetime; that you will lose friends and make friends. That it is all part of growing up. I know that with a little more experience, you will understand this.
You and I argue. We are so different, yet so alike. I worry about you, but you worry about me too. You recently went to a party and came home upset. I knew you were in a low mood before the party began thanks to a falling out with friends - not to mention the argument you and I had that afternoon, which culminated in me throwing and smashing a glass into the sink and you storming out of the house.
When you got home from the party I could see the pain etched in to your face. At times I feel I can read you like a book and it seemed to me then that you wanted to be positive – but that you just didn’t have it in you. At that moment you felt defeated. So you did what teenage girls have done for millennia - you dealt with it all by lashing out.
I wanted to tell you how much my heart hurt at that moment. I wanted to hug you and stroke your hair and order you to calm down. But how could I? You are as big as me. You are a woman. Maybe I could have. Maybe I should have. Instead, I told you that I loved you and that I was sorry and I went to bed.
I went to bed because I was so damn exhausted, and I sincerely felt that there was nothing more I could do for you in that moment. I didn’t want to make the situation worse – and I didn’t trust myself enough that I wouldn’t. So I lay in bed at listened for you – silently willing, begging you to go to bed. Eventually you did, and I thanked god that you didn’t leave the house.
A new day dawned, as they always do, and when you came to me the next morning with open arms I wrapped you in my mine and clung to you. In that moment I never wanted to let you go! I didn’t want to cry because I know I have a habit of crying too much and that it annoys everyone, but I need you to understand what I was feeling in that moment. It was pure, sheer, beautiful JOY. You were back. My little girl.
And today you are eighteen. An adult. I have no doubt that there will be more mishaps and commotions along the way. Such is life. But you know what? I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. You bring light and fun and weirdness and joy and drama and LOVE into our lives. And today, as with every day, I’m proud to be your Mum. Thank you for choosing me.
Here’s to the next eighteen, Miss Maya Pearl.
Lots of Love,