The 18 year old love story
If I knew it was you I was having when I found out I was having you I wouldn’t have cried for three days.
Not that I actually knew I was having you, so I wasn’t actually crying about that. I was crying about not knowing what it really, actually meant to be having a baby. And I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked out what that really actually means, because I didn’t just “have a baby” I had you.
And YOU, from the moment you watched us all wisely with your four hour old eyes, changed everything about who I thought I was, the idea of the life I thought I was going to have and what it meant to never actually truly be alone in the world.
My biggest girl, even though you may not have always thought it, I think you got the best gig. That bit of your life from the magic of your birth, at home, with our friends around us and the years of the just you and me and all those people for whom you were the first baby. The first grandchild, the first granddaughter, the first niece, the first baby of a friend, the first born. And now the first biggest girl. It’s pretty special. We did such cool stuff before it got complicated with husbands and sisters and divorces and growing up. Not that we can change that, I just remember it seemed easier somehow.
We travelled a lot. From Townsville to Darwin for a drive when you were 6 weeks old. Across Australia in the Ambo with Grump and Daisy dog. He said you cried the whole time, but I don’t remember that. To the farm. To Geraldton and Kalbarri and Exmouth and down south. To Borneo to see the orang-utans and New Zealand for the Millennium and Queensland to see the other part of your family many times. We lived in that Ambo and it was really awesome to leave you in it with Daisy, asleep, out the front of the pub (I can only tell you this because you are 18 and survived my wild days!). There are so many people who loved you and looked after you and have special memories of you. I can’t mention them all here because I would miss someone inadvertently, but your life is as colourful as all of them.
All the time we lived at the farm and you lived in the chook pen. And all the chooks had names and nicknames and we had to start the “Diary of Dead Pets” because having so many pets meant that some of them died and you wanted to remember them always. You got a Step-Dad and a sister, who drive us all nuts for while (the sister, not the Step-Dad til maybe later :)). I took credit for your coolness as a baby, but in the end, it wasn’t about me. You must’ve just been cool.
You went to a little school and then one day we broke your heart and left the farm and moved to town and you went to a bigger school, and you just did it. You wore a lot of knee high rainbow socks and used your roller blades to get to school until some lame 15 year old tripped you over for fun, and after that you just walked. And when you were 12 you got another sister, and I would say that EVERYONE (if possible) should have a 12 year old when they have a newborn. It was the greatest. You would sit and hold her for hours and I got the whole having lots of kid’s thing!
And then you were a teenager and really quiet and we didn’t have a Step-Dad anymore and that didn’t really end well for you, and then we had another sister, and because it was just you and me mature enough to pick a name for a real child you helped me choose her name. And you were quite jealous that she got such a cool name and I just named you after the month you were born because I didn’t have a girls’ name ready. I think your name is perfect.
That time was hard. It was hard to be your Mum and love you and just hope you got through it and were OK. Sometimes I wasn’t sure. I did always know when you were hung-over though, even when you tried to say it was because you didn’t get enough sleep at movie nights. I would purposely get your sisters’ to disturb you or make you eat dinner when I knew you felt gross! Now you are 18 I hope your hangovers get less horrible but it’s not looking too hopeful. Haha, that’s a shame. And of course I never want you to get your heart broken, but it already happened once, so I hope (via my example) I can teach you to make good choices. Sorry I haven’t set a very good example to date, but my plan (because I’m so good at planning) has been to save you from some of life’s hard lessons by taking one for the team!
And when you left, and probably before, I cried for weeks. I had to learn to love you enough to let you go, and let go of how I thought it was supposed to be to be a Mum. I learnt so much from that, and then you came home. All of you. And now you’re here, and everything just changed again. And every other week your sisters go to their dad’s house, and it’s just you and me. Kind of like way back when. Like full circle. And we do cool tuff like watching New Girl in bed with sleepy tea and dark chocolate and talking about boys and going the Op Shop. And someday soon I think you might move out (unless you’re 23 before you get your driver’s license which is becoming a distinct possibility!) and finally, I think I could be OK with that.
You, my biggest girl, are magnificent. And I can’t and won’t take all the credit for that, because our whole life has been filled with these people who had us, and held us and helped us. And they know who they are. Some will be here tonight at your birthday party on a promise not to be the “wild 40 year olds” and some are far away, but the foundation of people you have in your life who love you is wide and strong and deep.
Happy 18th April Grace, I have loved you before I knew you were you.