This time, 12 years ago, I was impatiently awaiting the arrival of my eldest daughter with all of the trepidations and anxieties of a first time mum. At the tender age of 21, I thought I was ready to welcome Hayley into the world with open arms and an open heart but I was wholly unprepared for the small human that would change everything about the world that I knew.
On the 30th of December 2005, we welcomed Hayley Grace into the universe at just after 8am in the morning, she was born by elective caesarean section (from which I had the absolute worst recovery) at a healthy 4kg on the dot (8lbs 13oz) in Olivedale Clinic, Johannesburg, South Africa.
From the day she was born, everyone commented on how much like her dad she looked… and she did! She was her father’s little twin in her younger years and photos of him and her together around the same age held an uncanny and almost unbelievable resemblance. Now, 12 years later, she is starting to look and act more like me every day. From her hormonal side glances to her witty retorts, she is her mother through and through and I couldn’t be more proud.
Hayley is a philanthropist at heart, many times she has stopped to give her last sweet, a packet of crisps or even a chocolate – and she loves chocolate – to a rough sleeper. When an advert comes on TV asking for £2 a month to contribute to water or food, she is the first to beg for me to sign up and then quickly criticises the camera men for filming the homeless children instead of feeding them. She is wise beyond her years yet childlike in her approach and she has the biggest heart out of all the humans I know.
Don’t get me wrong, she is almost a teenager. At the age of 12, she is in the midst of a pre teen hormonal war that rages within her body and mind daily and some days I predict it will be the death of me, other days I have to remind myself who I was at the age of 12 and am grateful everyday that she is not me… As her mum, I deal with the mood swings and I deal with snappiness. As her friend, I coach her through it. Every day is a new day for us but each day is easier than the last as we navigate this hormonal tide together.
I have watched this little baby girl, who used to wear nappies on her head, grow into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. She is headstrong and ambitious. She is brave and assertive. She is kind and calming. She is helpful and caring and the best little friend I could have been given. I am astounded every day at just how mature she is and how her old soul commands a room. She is my pride on legs and I am so honoured to have been gifted the title of her mother, now and always.
Hayley has faced living with me as a single-parent, learning to accept another man as her step-dad, becoming a big sister at the age of 5, living without me for 9 months when I came to the UK, moving to another continent, leaving her SA life and her dad behind and now dealing with my own health issues and helping me around the house as I recover from the challenges of this year. Despite all of this, she is more grounded and more mature than most at her age and I could not be prouder of the little lady she has become.
In a time where growing up is more difficult than we ever could have imagined, where the pressures of society and social media are ever present and ever influencing, where makeup becomes the ultimate wish list item of a 12 year old and free time is best spent on Snapchat or FaceTime with a bestie, there are a few things I wanted to share with her and wish I could tell my 12 year old self.
- Society will put pressure on you to be or look a certain way, buck this influence and choose to always be yourself and be proud.
- Perhaps your small changes cannot change the world, but your small changes can change the way those around you see the world. Never think your small changes are in vain.
- You may be pressured into identifying your purpose in life, fear not. Some people never identify a purpose, perhaps your purpose is not to have a purpose at all.
- Many will tell you that the way a man treats his mother is an indication of how he will treat you, this may be true but do not disregard the way he treats animals. If he shoos a cat or a snake, you don’t need that negativity in your life.
- Don’t ever feel that you need makeup to look beautiful, makeup is to enhance the beauty you already have, it does not create it.
- Social media is fun, within reason. Learn the balance of switching off and enjoying real human time instead of just digital friendship. (I am still learning this one…)
- Never gossip! If someone can gossip to you about someone else, they can gossip to someone else about you. Don’t be the mean girl.
- You cannot control someone else’s words or actions, you can control how you react to their behaviour. Never bring yourself down to a level at which you don’t belong.
- As you get older, never let go of that childlike innocence that resonates from within you. Despite wanting to look grown up and mature, that ‘swish swish’ dance will always bring out the silliness in you.
- When I try to help you with the boundaries of social media and navigating high school, relationships, boys and mature subjects, know that I will always value your opinion but may have to outrank you. This is only ever for YOUR protection.
- Sing. Sing as if your life depended on it. Never stop singing, I won’t ever tire of hearing it.
- The only person who can judge you is you.
- Read. Read all of the books you can get your hands on.
- Honesty is always and will always be the best policy.
- Just do you girl, just do you.
No doubt life is ready to get very interesting in our home as we learn to adapt to our evolving mother-daughter relationship. We have so many things to navigate in the coming years, from boys (though we are already elbow deep in this one) to puberty and everything in between. I am not worried, I know that we have already endured so much together and Hayley has taken the world onto her shoulders in only a few short years on this earth, I am so proud of everything she has already achieved.
To my darling daughter, I wish you the happiest of birthdays for Saturday. You deserve everything in the world but as I cannot give it to you, I will always try to get as close as possible. Thank you for being the best pre-teen we could have asked for and we are all so very proud of you every single day.
From all of those who love you dearly, we adore you.
Love Mom Xx