Nine years ago today, at 10.55am on your due date, you came into this world. A solid lump of baby.
Nine years ago. How could it have been nine years ago? How could you be halfway to adulthood? Because, to me, you’re always little, always my baby.
But I know you’re not. You’re so mature and grown up. I listen to you talk and you’re so serious and knowledgeable about so many things. You’re doing so well at school. The teachers adore you and so do the kids. Daddy and me were so proud when you were given a special award by your teacher just before Christmas. In a lifetime of proud moments, that one really stood out. You’re top of your class, going off to other schools to do sessions for gifted and talented mathematicians.
This year, you’ve grown up so much. It feels like you and I are friends and equals more than ever. You’ve started to look after me, just a little bit, just as I’ve looked after you all these years. Only the other day, it was you that undid a locker for me as I struggled with the key (I’m always rubbish with keys).
As your brothers get older and more independent and spend far more time than I would like them to in their own rooms, it seems like increasingly it’s just the two of us. We spend a lot of time just talking about anything and everything. Four evenings after school a week are dedicated to you and your dance lessons. We have to squeeze in your homework, looking after the guinea pig and violin practice around that. The quality and timing of your tea (and the whole family’s) suffers because I’m always picking you up at teatime. To be honest, it probably wouldn’t be great anyway.
You love nothing more than watching telly. Your appetite for reality TV is endless. You watch literally ever programme there is with real people – talent shows, documentaries, survival shows, cooking shows, dancing shows… It feels like those people become your friends. You are the only person in the family who remembers the names of everyone on The Apprentice right from the first episode, not to mention how they were fired and which tasks they won. You know all the names of ‘the girls’ on Take Me Out too – watching that with Daddy on a Saturday evening is one of your greatest pleasures. You record these shows and watch them again and again. They can get irritating, so can you talking about them. I can’t bear Child Genius first time around and I certainly can’t bear it tenth time around. I have to bite my tongue when you tell me, for the 100th time, that the narrator calls one kid something different to the name her parents call her. It irritates me listening to you, but I know that when you don’t do it any more I will miss it, so I listen quietly and nod in all the right places.
You love me to watch TV with you. I don’t always have the time and I don’t always like what you’re watching, but I try to say yes at least some of the time. It’s one more of those things I know you won’t want me to do forever, so I’m making the most of it. Working at home means I can be more flexible with my time and I can spare half an hour to watch Coach Trip with you.
You’re a beautiful girl. Your long hair and glasses mean you will never fade into the background. People’s eyes are drawn to you. You stand out.
Your dancing goes from strength to strength. It is truly mesmerising to watch. I was so proud of you for getting not one, but two distinctions recently. Total strangers, and the dance mums that usually ignore us, will talk to me about your dancing. It draws them in just as it draws me in. They see your talent and enthusiasm shining out of you, just as I see it.
The last few weeks have been hard for you, and for all of us. The nasty virus and the mysterious painful foot have been tough, but you have coped with incredible maturity, hardly moaning and only crying once. I am so proud of you for how you have dealt with it and I really hope you are back to normal soon. You have so much to do that involves you being able to walk and, most importantly, dance.
Happy 9th birthday, my beautiful girl. I couldn’t love you more or be more proud of you. You are the perfect daughter.