Over the next few weeks, I turn 52 and my daughter turns 14. How do you like them hormonal apples?
We actually get along pretty well most of the time, despite our respective cranky streaks. I think it freaks other kids out when they’re in the car with us and we start playfully jibing with each other – they worry we’re serious when we’re just having fun.
She was texting me the other day and said: “You are too much like me.”
I replied: “I think it’s the other way round.”
“Nope,” she said.
“I was born first,” I valiantly retorted.
Her determined view of the world is oddly familiar – I spent most of my adult life convinced I was as tall as my 5ft 11in husband, when I was actually only 5ft 5in.
In my head I was six feet tall and completely capable of ruling the world.
Well, half of my head. The other half battled crippling insecurity.
It was quite the contrary mix.
I was 38 when the youngest was born and the editor of Woman’s Day magazine. My husband was a Walkley Award winning journalist. We lived in a nice suburb. Life was ostensibly good.
But my second pregnancy sent my body – and brain – a bit haywire. I was already off-kilter with what I think was PTSD following the birth of my first child. Then I became chronically ill, as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, with a condition called multiple disaccaride deficiencies.
Sugars, starches, and complex carbohydrates in foods are broken down into smaller sugars by enzymes until eventually the single sugars are absorbed into the body. Disaccharide intolerance is the inability to break apart the disaccharide into two single sugars and absorb them.
It took a long time to work out what was wrong with my body and even longer to fix it.
I wasn’t much fun to be around during those years. I was finally starting to recover when bullying at work ended my magazine career and contributed – together with my ongoing health issues – to the demise of my marriage.
I don’t think I was a very good mum during all that.
I was going through the motions rather than being truly “present”. Although things improved when we moved to New York for nine months. The kids and I spent an American winter together in a tiny apartment while their dad was studying at university. I had to find a way through that physical and mental fog.
My ex was far better at the early parenting years than me. He was quite the pied piper and craft king. But I’ve come into my own in the teen years.
I am slow to anger, thoughtful and kind. I’m probably too soft, but I’ve decided that’s better than being too hard.
I love my children fiercely and will brazenly fight their corner. I hope they know I always have their backs and feel secure and valued as a result.
I have spent most of my life feeling neither of those things, I don’t want them to carry that sort of burden.
As I spiral far too quickly through middle age, I look at my almost-14 year old and wonder how she will weather the storm of adult life.
Will she be stronger and bolder than I was?
She doesn’t let other kids chip away at her self-worth; but she thinks all her teachers hate her.
She campaigned to move to a high school where she knows no one, and caught the bus alone on her first day; yet she’s too nervous to order her own chicken nuggets at McDonalds.
Through force of will and athletic prowess that neither of her parents possess, she doggedly skipped her way to National Freestyle 13 Years Skipping Champion and was chosen for the Elite Netball Program at school, yet doubts she is good enough for the team.
She takes her super-fit body to the beach in the tiniest of bikinis, but hates how she looks in photos.
She’s a mass of contradictions, just like her mother.
I hope she grows into the Amazonian wonder woman that she has the potential to be, instead of wasting too much of her adult life on self-doubt like her mother did.
But maybe she already has the jump on me with the comment she made that I am too much like her, rather than the other way around.
The person I’ve become at 52 is far more similar to my 14-year-old daughter than the teen version of me.
Song of the day: Promises “Baby it’s you”