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Birthdays, life lessons and all that jazz

Nine years ago today I was in the maternity ward of the Chelsea & Westminster hospital in London, staring at my moments-old first born child with amazement. Holding that tiny baby in my arms, still woozy and in pain from the long and difficult birth that almost defeated us, I whispered a promise in her pink translucent ear; that I'd love her with my whole heart and endeavor to protect her from harm until I took my very last breath.

I still love her with my whole heart and I still protect her as much as I'm able to, but I'm learning fast that I can't protect her from everything; it's not always the wisest course of action to wrap your child in cotton wool and shield her from the world. My job is to prepare her as much as I can for adulthood which means that sometimes, with gritted teeth and a heavy heart, I have to stand back and let her find her own way. Yes, I can be there, loitering in the background for when it gets too much and she turns to look for me, but as she gets older I'm trying to defy my lioness instinct and not immediately dive in to try to fix things for her. Indeed, generally she doesn't want me to - Firstborn is turning out to be a brave and independent creature (if a little dramatic... but I blame the pre-teen hormone surge for that) who tries to tackle her issues on her own terms. Respect.

Obviously I'm going to totally mess her up (don't all mothers take the blame for that?) but if I can do anything at all to help Firstborn to grow into the fabulous woman she has the potential to be, it would be to give her the following advice:
  • Work hard and be nice to people, even when you don't feel like it. Both will pay dividends in the long run and both are incredibly satisfying.
  • Don't always listen to your mad old mother; I don't know everything, hard as that may be to believe. Question, question, question... then make up your own mind. But what I can give you is the benefit of my life experience so don't dismiss everything I tell you out of hand, either.
  • One person's viewpoint may differ from your own but that doesn't make either of you right or wrong. Much in life comes down to perception, things are rarely black and white, which is precisely what makes our limited time on this planet so very interesting.
  • Don't be afraid of fear; what scares us is often bigger in our minds than it is in reality. Face it head on, laugh at it if you must, then try to rationalise it. The only thing you should really be afraid of is emotional paralysis because that severely reduces your exposure to the many wonderful things life can bring.
  • Don't allow your insecurities to hold you back. Making excuses for why you can't do something may be the easy option but it rarely results in greatness. Take the risk and if you fall, pick yourself up and try again; practice really does make perfect and determination counts for a lot.
  • Don't hold on to bitterness, resentment and disappointment. Not only will this unholy trio make you feel thoroughly miserable and stunt your (personal) growth, they'll also make you an early candidate for Botox. There's truth in the saying that the life you lead ends up etched on your face; laugh a lot instead... laughter lines are always attractive but frown lines never are.
  • Never forget that you're surrounded by people who love you unconditionally and who'll be there for you whenever you need them - when life gets you down and when you're feeling on top of the world. And yes, I really do love you all the time, even if furious is written all over my face and I'm super-shouty because yet again your bedroom looks like the aftermath of a yard sale.
Happy birthday Firstborn! Wishing you a truly wonderful day.


Plastic paddy said…
What a lovely sentiment! Happy birthday FB! And your mummy will always be slummy to me! X
Kate S. said…
Thanks Paddy - and you'll always be slummy to me too! Takes one to know one (do you do the marker pen trick too then??) :-)
Springs chicken said…
I loved this, actually made me a bit emotional!!! Nick really enjoyed it too. thanks for some lovely bits of advice
expatmammy said…
Great advice, will be taking this on board!
juicyfatkin said…
The mottos I was given as a child were "love yourself and be proud of who you are because only then can you truly expect others to love you." and "smile things are never that bad".
My mother-in laws mottos were: "chose not friend for outside show, feathers float but pearls lie low." and "Love many trust a few but always paddle your own canoe"

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