JUST like that, the baby who made me a mother for the very first time has turned 13.
It was only moments ago I was waiting outside the Wellington Hospital - my husband was finding a car park in the pre-dawn dark - when a Kiwi nurse walked by and wished me luck on having my baby today.
"Thank you!" I said, in the best Kiwi accent I could manage.
Australia had just beaten New Zealand in the cricket match overnight; some of them take it really seriously! (I was grateful for the timing of that Test, which gave my husband something else to do in between timing contractions!!)
Our Kiwi-born, Australian girl was delivered in good time and we were allowed to head back home after tea and Vegemite toast at 11am.
However, as this was a whole new ball game, I asked to sleep over for a night in the ward.
From weeks 2 to 8, my newborn cried heartily for one hour from 4am every morning. Nothing would pacify her. Luckily, once she got that out of her system, she has been love and light since.
She is a natural-born baker, dog lover and daydream believer.
She is a mover and shaker; in the jazz dance and classical ballet way.
But she is also a teenager now and she'd actually die if I mentioned anything else about her, enough already!
Proper #awkward has always been a thing. Frustratingly, it takes forever to learn that we're all weird; the thing that makes us different is the thing that makes us interesting. It's our superpower! Plug into that!!
Instead, here's the letter I would write to my 13-year-old self (or any other teenager new to the fold) with the benefit of hindsight.
Dear teenager or Hey Girl (as my eight-year-old starts her texts),
Congratulations! You made it!! Twelve was a bit of an over-rated age in my opinion, but 13 is awesome.
You have nothing to do but get up just in time to catch the school bus, your homework, tennis in summer and netball in winter, and watch Home and Away. Enjoy it; you won't believe Home and Away will still be around when you have a teenager of your own, though they seem to have run out of plots (going by the advertisements only)!
No one will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. Put simply, they don't have the time or inclination. Everyone else is already caught up with judging themselves so harshly they won't even notice your quirks. If you think someone is looking at you "weird", they're usually not. They're daydreaming while worrying about some "weird" thing they deemed themselves to have done 10 minutes ago in Maths class. Proper #awkward has always been a thing. Frustratingly, it takes forever to learn that we're all weird; the thing that makes us different is the thing that makes us interesting. It's our superpower! Plug into that!!
MORE MATERIAL GIRL:
Look after your friends. Celebrate each other's wins; raise each other up. Society does better when we all do better as a group. Don't bad-mouth each other; shut that talk down. Talk ideas, not people! Long after you forget what trigonometry even is, you will still have your high school friends. (In future there's this thing called Facebook. Sometimes you'll know more about your friends than you ever wanted to know. Get a room, not a status update!)
Never stop exercising. The benefits for physical and mental health are profound.
Always use sunscreen. There's a hole in the ozone layer and we're not quite up to speed on that. As for climate change, that's a whole other letter.
Keep baking. Chefs are the new celebrities in a few years from now!
Get plenty of rest. When you're 35, your first-born will keep you up for eight weeks straight. It will knock you for six! You will think you will never sleep again. But finally you do. Then it's all love and light.
PS. That perm you're planning to get around the time of your 14th birthday is a big mistake you'll regret forever. The hairdresser says it will thicken up your hair, which it does. Now your hair is so thick you're too time-poor and lazy to blow-dry it properly, ever! "Anyhoo", it's your call. I know teenagers need to try a few things out for themselves.