Happy 18th birthday darling
You find me in a little shock that I have managed to do well enough to even get you to 18 years old. It has been a bumpy old ride but one I am so glad we took together.
Firstly, it is important to say how very much wanted you were. Having never wanted children, I suddenly became fiercely broody and really struggled when your older sister and your Dad’s nephew and his wife brought their babies to see us. In my usual way, I determined to have a baby and although it took only about 6 weeks for us to conceive, I got furious when it did not work first time as it were. I know way too much information!
You Dad was kind enough to let us go forward and have a family even though he already had 4 daughters. So I was very pleased when you were a boy as it made you that bit different.
Your grandparents had waited so many years for a grandchild. I think they had just about given up. We were not actually in touch when I became pregnant. I can’t even remember the details now but I do know that as soon as I told them about you, everything was forgotten and we entered an immensely happy period.
They used to come and look after you travelling miles and miles to do so every week and staying over. It was not long before they left their home town so they could be absolutely on hand for you and you know how well they did that. Because yes your mad mother has applied for a new managerial job when she was about 8 months pregnant. I have worked out far too late in the day that a lot of my emotional struggles comes from expecting way too much of myself.
So it makes sense, that I now need to say how very sorry I am for all the bad times I have given you. I would have liked to have given you more material things over the years but then again, perhaps you value things more because you know sometimes we had to work so hard for them. I think I was a great mum briefly but of course it was easy with you because your amazing grandparents would hand you over every evening fed, bathed and entertained.
You also had a babysitter for back up called Zoe who was younger than you are now. She took her role so seriously taking you to feed ducks and keeping you warm and happy. I remember my first real sadness around you was when you had done a painting on her watch instead of mine. It was me who saw you walk for the first time thankfully.
You were to a Montessori nursery which cost a fortune but gave you such a magical start to life as it was based in a huge old house with amazing walled gardens. I remember your lovely red and yellow uniform. It was good to give my parents a bit of a break too as you got harder to handle as you started to run off. You walked at 11 months and just always wanted to hurtle off to explore things. My parents were well into their Seventies – they were miracle workers but I think you know that.
We know what happened next. I had your sister and hurtled into post-natal depression and it still had not cleared by the time I had your little brother. In fact, it took a decade or so to shift completely if you ask me. So I was often down, irritable and angry and this was not your fault and not at all what you deserved. I wish someone had seen what was happening and got me some support but that did not happen.
Even in this bleak period, there are so many happy memories of you. In many ways you got me through it all. You still do although the clouds have lifted now and I have happiness every day. That does not mean I am 100 per cent happy but I am learning to realise that few people achieve that and it is vital to gaze in the direction of the things that are going well.
As for the practical side of parenting, I have never really done it well. I find it all a bit overwhelming in terms of bath-time, bed-time, laundry and housework. You are 18 so your brother would say I must have done well enough to create a man.
As a barely good enough mum or maybe I am but that perfectionist drive is still within me, I am very proud that I have instilled the best of values into you. You treat all genders, ages and sexualities with kindness. You stand up for others even when you place yourself under threat by doing so. I am delighted you are well on the Left when it comes to politics and also know I told you all to make up your own minds on these matters. Your love of history is great as your grandma encouraged this in me and then in you. And perhaps not surprisingly with an opera singer for an uncle and another uncle who had charisma and acting talent to die for, you have picked up an interest in acting and the theatre.
You look so like me. People comment on that often as you have the brown eyes but also the mad wavy hair. You are definitely tall, dark and handsome but you have no idea of course. You are popular with your peers and with anyone who meets you. Nobody has ever said a bad word about you to be honest. People are always super-impressed. All I want for you now is for you to become super-impressed with yourself. That will come with time and experience. Just do one thing for your Mum – do everything you can to make it happen way earlier than I did.
Soon you will be leaving home and I think for now that is probably good for both of us. You will always be welcome wherever I am but I acknowledge that you need to make your own way in the world. Letting go is part of being that barely good enough or perhaps absolutely fine and just human mum.
I got lucky and I love you.
I am looking forward and excited about your next chapter.