Seven years ago you arrived into our lives. I would like to say that you burst onto the scene. However, a more accurate description would be dragged! Your arrival into the world was a dramatic one full of angst and worry. We were told that you would be born ‘abnormal’. As usual, you had the last laugh when you proved them wrong! You stubbornly refused to be born and after 50 hours in labour you finally arrived via a C-section.You let us know that you were not happy at being ripped from your nice, cosy womb. The operating theatre filled with your cross and angry cries. I thought newborns were supposed to have soft mews for a cry. Your cry was like a fog-horn jolting me from my post labour tiredness.
Our life hasn’t been quiet since. If you are in the vicinity then everyone knows about it. You are loud, opinionated and confident. From day one you have been the boss of us! Family members joked that you were born a teenager. If you didn’t want to do it then there was no persuading you otherwise. Breastfeeding, sleeping, crawling, you name it, you only did it when you decided to do it. One of the few things that did make you happy as a baby was looking at your books and your love for books is something that is still evident today. You have recently finished ‘The Secret Garden’. This was a book that you told me is “very slow to get started, they really could lose the first couple of chapters”. Your critical appraisal being typical of the high standards that you have. It might be a classic but you are not easily impressed.
I worry that I am not good enough to be your mum. That you deserve better. I failed you from day one when I was unable to deliver you, then you refused to breastfeed and no amount of coaxing from me changed that. I was consumed by guilt. I felt that I was a rubbish mum. That I had fallen at the first hurdle. However, I must have done something right because 7 years later you are proving yourself to be the most amazing little girl. Your school report talks about you being an all-rounder. It seems that you have inherited my love for reading and writing and your dad’s brain for maths and science. You also have a love for performing, possibly a chip off the old block. Your ability to learn things quickly never fails to astonish me. You always want to be the best. You love playing the piano and have excelled at learning it. You are hardworking, kind, and, I am told, a joy to teach. You are the kind of pupil that I used to love teaching.
I am proud of the 7-year-old that you have become. However, when I look at you I don’t see a 7 year-old. I see my baby girl. My first-born. I remember how I carried you in my belly. How when I couldn’t sleep at night, I sat in your nursery and I talked to you in my swollen belly. How as I sat and watched the neighbour getting arrested in the early hours of the morning, I told you about my fears for you. How I was worried about this violent world I was bringing you into. As I rocked in the nursing chair I shared my hopes and dreams that I had for you. I reeled off all the clichés. I told you that the world was waiting here, that it was waiting for your taking. I told you how beautiful the world is but also how we can’t take it for granted. How we need to take time to appreciate the small things; to smell the flowers, to feel the sun on our back, and to paddle in the sea. I told you how books can change your life. How the opening of a book can transport you to a new world. I explained how music can help heal a broken heart and make you want to dance. I told you that some of my biggest hopes for you were that you would be happy and healthy. I told you how I hoped that one day you will meet someone and fall in love, and how that person will complete you. How that person will make you laugh. I regaled the tale of how I met your father. The kindest person I know. The man who taught me that with love on your side you feel that you can achieve anything. The man who helped me to believe in myself. Above all, I hoped that you would inherit his capacity for kindness. You did.
You are caring and maternal. Before your younger sister arrived we worried about you. We worried that you would be jealous and resentful. Instead you were excited and delighted. You love being an older sister and, most of the time, you are very patient with her. Bossy too, but mostly patient. You create elaborate games that you play together. As I write this, I can hear you pretending to be a rampaging, handbag swinging dinosaur. You are insisting that Youngest guards the dinosaur eggs as you need to go out and forage for food. You always make me smile.
You are a loving daughter. Challenging at times, but always loving. You have been my rainbow on dark days. Those days when I struggled to juggle working full-time and being your Mum. You always reassured me with a hug and a whisper in my ear of ‘I love you’. You made me want to become a better person, to be your role-model, to lead by example. You gave me the courage to chase my dreams. To start writing again.
I find myself wanting to protect you from the world, yet, I know that I should also be preparing you for it. There will be times when life seems very cruel, when it will leave you feeling bruised and raw. There will be times when you question life and its plan. There will even be times when you question humanity. During these times, have courage; be brave; be fearless. We can’t control what is happening in the world around us but we can control how we react to it.
I feel very proud and lucky to call you my daughter. Never let the world steal your kindness, never let the world stop you from being creative. You are you. Believe in yourself like I believe in you, then you can achieve anything. Above all, always remember to be compassionate. We need more compassion in the world. Show everyone how you are beautiful inside and out. Lead by example.
Happy Birthday, Oldest.