My darling, 12 things you need to know at 12
Tomorrow, my darling, you turn 12; a girl, still. But sometime when I wasn’t paying attention, the pudgy-cheeked baby skipped away and here you are, a soft sketch of the woman you’re going to be.
I want to freeze-frame you so I can say all the things I’ve missed, that the words may be indelibly inked like a suit of armour around your soul. But soon it’ll be your own voice, not mine, that matters most. So here’s something to pop in your pocket or file on your bedroom floor: 12 things I want you to know on your 12th birthday.
Your body is the only one you’ll ever have. How blessed are you, that it works perfectly and has barely given you a moment’s pain. Some people aren’t so lucky, so respect it – even when those around you are hating theirs. I can’t protect you from the stinging winds of the beauty storm about to strike your shores, but don’t take the weather with you. Photographs, as we’ve shown you, are not truth.
Dress in whatever bonkers outfit you like. Your skin is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever wear, but you don’t have to show it all. Poise wipes the floor on fashion.
Someday soon, you won’t want to hold my hand. That’s fine. Part of becoming you is separating from me. If you tell me you hate me, I’ll put it down to the hormone party inside your head. However far you wander – go, scoop the world out with a spoon – my arm will be crooked, waiting for yours to slide back through it.
Of all the virtues I wish on you, foremost is courage. Your birth coincided with a new millennium emboldened by gender equality, but there’s still work to do. Never be less than you are.
Books are great solace when you need a break from your own story. How easily you slip inside the pages and lose yourself in another world. Continue to cross continents, fantasise and be stilled. Each story is a wardrobe into another Narnia.
Loyalty is effortless if you’ve chosen friends who take care of your happiness. “The best thing about you is you’re loyal” is the loveliest compliment anyone’s ever paid me and, 15 years on, he’s still my friend (it’s bollocks that girls and boys can’t be).
If you want children, try as hard as humanly possible to do it before it’s too late. When a GP told me at 31 to get on with it, I thought she was a meddling old bag. But it was sage advice; it brought me you.
I know you play your drums when you’re angry with me. Stick with them – but don’t ever sleep with a bass guitarist because, trust me, they’re moody bastards.
Keep playing sport. Team stands for Together Everyone Achieves More, and nothing thrills more than the alchemy of muscle, ball and brain. (OK, maybe one thing…)
Your Dad has given you a blueprint for how a man can be. You don’t have to choose someone like him, but try to choose someone as kind as him. Just as you can’t be another person’s ‘everything’, they can’t be yours. But I wish you might be loved as surely as I know you have the capacity to love.
Laughter is cheaper than blusher. It’s also impossible to misapply.
Saying no is the hardest thing. Before every choice, there’s a split-second. Use it.
Remember when you were little and you loved kaleidoscopes? The tiniest twist, and the pattern would change. Life’s like that – but be exhilarated, not cowed. Talk ’til dawn, swim behind waterfalls, kiss.
Be brave. Ahead are days of miracle and wonder.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/angelamollard.
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