Thirty-three Things I Want my Daughter to Know…in due course.
Dear daughter, love of my heart,
I’ve been thinking of you, much more than you realise. Even while we’re seated at breakfast, or dashing about in the car or singing you off to sleep at night, I’m thinking of you in another way. You are growing into your future self, in many ways without me. So much of your behaviour and your instincts are beyond my control. You are an energy all of your own. I remind myself of Kahil Gibran:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you yet not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
This resonated with me so strongly as an argumentative, desperate-for-independence teenager. Yet it resonates with me stronger still, now that I am your mother. Somewhere deep inside me I find your special brand of mystery a little bit painful and a little bit wonderful. By ‘a little’, I mean a lot. I find myself yearning to be a part of the life you have yet to live and yet I know that I will have to let go and satisfy myself with being there for you and with you when you need me. When you want me. How important the strength of our relationship suddenly seems to me.
Gibran goes on to say:
“You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
Beautiful. Yet I’m aware that the years are rushing past and that it is hard to find the time to stop and truly listen to you, to who you are becoming, despite me and because of me. I might lose you, the close relationship with you, which is my heart’s deepest wish. So I want to slow things down. If there’s any time to slow things down it’s now. When you are four and I am forty-one. And there are some things I’d like to share with you darling. So regardless of the above I will give you some of my thoughts.
Here goes my love:
1. Daddy and I worked so hard to get you darling child, and you were desperately wished for. I was entirely unsure about having children, and when it became tricky to conceive you, I realised that I wanted you more than anything in the world. You are everything we could have dreamed of and then some. You kicked and hiccupped in my tummy for a beautifully uneventful pregnancy and while the labour was far from easy, we did it girl! No drugs but a lot of noise! And you have been making a lot of noise ever since. It seems we started as you meant to go on.
2. You were and are the most exquisitely beautiful baby girl we have ever seen. If you hadn’t popped outta me we might have thought you belonged to somebody else…but you did look ever so like your papa so we have him to thank!
3. Food should always be shared and relished. Our family will work through our troubles and our triumphs around our dining table. Food is a celebration not a chore. The more you learn about it and the more you get creative with it, the more you’ll understand that. Daddy and I will share this with you. I realise that there is a lot of stress around the dining table these days with your brother’s teeny size and his resistance to eating. Thank you for your incredibly mature understanding.
4. Having flowers in the house is a reminder that the outdoors is only a few steps away, and fills a home with vibrancy, humour and hope. It shows that we care about our home. No matter how little money we might have in the bank, we can always make a magical home.
5. Domestics are dull so get them done quickly. Nobody is ‘above’ domestics, but don’t labour the point.
6. Ironing is for suckers. Buy clothes that don’t require ironing or ask daddy to help.
7. A glass of wine with dinner is one of the things that makes the world go around…and around and around and around…
8. Your body belongs to you. Take care of it. Cherish it. Respect it. Love it. Be proud of it. There will be much, much more to say on this.
9. Wear sunscreen. I’m not kidding my love. You have your mummy’s skin and I have learned the hard way. I didn’t listen to my mamma and I damn well should have. The sun is a scorcher. You will burn. You will be susceptible to skin cancer. It is so easy to protect yourself so do it. Just do it and you’ll have no regrets. I will help you. Your daddy doesn’t need to worry so ignore his olive skinned tanned ass.
10. Smiles beget smiles. Love begets love.
11. Music has so many of the answers. I hope you continue to enjoy it with as much gusto as you do now. Mummy and daddy will nurture this. That is a promise right there.
12. Sing because your soul begs you to. It is cathartic and it might be as necessary for you as it is for mummy. But if not, just sing when you feel the music bubbling in you and see what happens.
13. Close your eyes and just listen. There is a lot to learn in that quiet space of listening to your own silence.
14. Take your time. Pace it out. There is no rush here. Don’t mind what anybody else might tell you. There is definitely no rush. You are so desperate to be a big girl and I remember that feeling so, so well. But do enjoy being four. You are very wonderful at it.
15. Make mistakes. Success is not about money or being the best at everything you do. Not at all. It is about learning from the things you mess up. There is no shame in making mistakes. Mistakes help us map our future. There is a certain shame in kicking the sawdust over them and pretending they didn’t happen, because you won’t have learned a thing. And try not to live with a foot in the past, regretting missed opportunities. It is so tricky to step up to the diving block and be present now when we are castigating our past selves for merely having been human. Your mummy also needs to work on this.
16. You can reinvent yourself time and time again. You need not settle for what you have now. Tomorrow you may discover another you.
17. There is nothing you could ever tell me which would make me think less of you. I will always be your confidant and I will guide you with everything I have.
18. Welcome to my wardrobe. You have already helped yourself (so damn cute) so I imagine when the shoe fits, I won’t have any left!
19. Men do ballet. Women drive buses. Men wear pink. Women wear brown. Please do not succumb to the gender divide. It is not us and them; it is all of us together figuring it all out.
20. Racism is entirely unacceptable. Every race is equal and as important, special and deserving as the next. If we are in a privileged position because of our ancestry and the country we live in, then we owe it to those people of different cultures, skin colours and religions, who suffer persecution and poverty, to pave the way for them to discover a better life. We owe them that because we are all part of a greater humanity and the world is in a proper pickle because of self-interest, ill-informed headline-spouting and red-neckery. If the shoe were on the other foot, my god I would hope that our family would be afforded the same love, support, generosity, understanding and respect. Cultivate a sensitivity for those less advantaged than you.
21. Money should not be your benchmark of success. And nor should it define how you see yourself in relationship to others. We are not wealthy in comparison to many people you will rub shoulders with, but compared to billions of others, we have luck on our side. You will mingle with many children from affluent families and backgrounds and you will soon see that they can afford big houses with pools, expensive schools, holiday homes and fancy getaways. What you need to know my angel child is that money does not amount to self-worth. Money does not decide what the future holds. Money can make a whole lot of things easier but it can also make decisions for you and paralyse your creative instincts. It cannot buy you love, inspiration, true friendships or self-fulfillment. Working for your dreams brings far greater rewards than having those dreams bought for you. You will find that many of the people we admire have come from very little. But they allowed themselves to dream and believed in themselves. Their lives are richer for not having searched for the buck and not spending futile time in contemplation of the Joneses. I beg you to believe that the sky is the limit, regardless of what you have in the bank. Shoot high. And remember how lucky you are.
22. Having said that, if you only have $13 in the bank, it really ought to be spent on Meredith Goats Cheese.
23. If you say that you see a tiger in the clouds, I believe you. Your imagination is your greatest ally. Give it wings.
24. Mummy and daddy follow no religion and do not covet a god of our own. We think that religion has a huge amount to answer for. We have our own views on this, but will allow you to make up your own mind. But we will tell you what we believe in. We will tell you that we believe in the spiritual power of nature, music, family and laughter.
25. You cannot control whether people like you or not. So let it go and be yourself. You can waste a lot of energy on this. It isn’t worth it my love. Pleasing everybody is not possible. Truly darlin, the sooner you learn to accept yourself in your own eyes, the less time you’ll spend concerning yourself about whether Doris or Boris like you or not. Life is quite literally too short.
26. There are arseholes out there. No doubt. Sometimes people are rude. Sometimes they’re mean. Sometimes they’re jealous and cruel. Sometimes they’re bullies. Kill them with kindness but don’t be an arsehole. There’s no love there. Just an ugly face.
27. Learn to scuba dive. We will take you. There is no feeling like it. Time stops. Beauty reigns. Nature triumphs. I can’t wait to do this with you and watch your face light up at the magical colours of life under the sea.
28. Inside play is where you’ll find many of the answers.
29. Laughter is a cure for so many ailments. And a long hot bath. Laughing in a long hot bath can also be nice, but probably preferable if done independently.
30. My beautiful water baby, water is cleansing and soothing and empowering. You were nearly born in water! Mummy spent her entire pregnancy swimming and found such comfort in the birthing pool. Water is a pain reliever. Learn to swim well; to have control over the water and to swim through it with power behind your limbs and the waves in your hair is one of life’s great gifts. Dive deep and you will be reborn a little. You already love the water. Soon it will be time to understand it and gain some respect for it.
31. Family is the most important thing you have. I think you already intrinsically understand this. Loyalty to our family is our most important value. You are already discovering that your brother is the most important person in your world and your parents come a close second.
32. When you ask me one day about alcohol, smoking and drugs (and you will), your daddy and I will not lie to you and pretend that we have no experience of any of this and simply warn you of the perils. These are big topics and require openness and honesty. We will share our experiences (perhaps not every detail!) and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about and for yourself, regardless of the pressure of your peers and free from the shadow of parental disapproval. I do not want you to feel that you must keep parts of your life hidden away from us because you fear reprisal.
33. Speak the truth. Lies beget lies and liars lose trust and friendships. The capacity to speak honestly, with integrity and with kindness is a powerful tool.
I will add more to this list as time goes by. But thirty-three seems like a good number to finish on right now baby girl.
Love Mamma x