Well my Tilly, you are fifteen today. What do I say to your fifteen year old self?
With every year that passes I worry a little that you might lose yourself a bit. I worry more now that you are a teenager, and have more independence that you might suddenly become insecure, or try to change yourself because of what others think of you. I worry that you might do something stupid just to please someone else. I worry that you will punish yourself for how you think and feel. I worry that you will compare yourself to others and find yourself wanting. I worry that you will compromise the remarkable strength of character you have because it might make others uncomfortable.
This is what I did as a teenager. This is what most teenagers I’ve ever had to do with do.
But then there’s you my Tilly, isn’t there?
It seems to me, when I look at it clearly, without the worry of what you might do, and I actually focus on what you do do, that there really isn’t anything at all to worry about.
You are just exactly yourself. You do not compromise who you are, not for a second. That doesn’t mean that you don’t act with generosity to others, far from it, you are one of the most giving people I know, but even in the things you do for others you are still resolutely yourself. You don’t even have to think about it. You just are.
And what sort of person are you?
The person that you are is delightful.
The person that you are gets excited about pots of tea, and discovering new types of bread.
The person that you are is obsessed by knitting and instead of hanging around bus shelters with boys, slopes off to the local wool shop to spend every penny that you’ve earned on circular needles so you can make yourself hats.
The person that you are spends more of her free time in the library, helping run book clubs, helping keep the library busy, reading voraciously, everything from The Great Gatsby to The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The person you are wants sausage and mash with onion gravy for your birthday tea, at home, with your family, please.
The person that you are begs to stay behind at school some nights so you can keep on making art.
The person that you are has the heart of the sunniest child, and wants to think the best of everyone. (except Michael Gove)
The person that you are is still writing letters to the government, arguing with Michael Gove about literacy, throwing pickles at UKIP posters, getting outraged about housing policy. Getting involved, being informed, not ever accepting that this is just the way things are.
The person that you are is teaching yourself to cook, deliberately expanding your palate because you are excited about food and want to taste everything.
The person that you are grows chillies and lemon trees in her bedroom and decorates it with vintage ceramics and art instead of posters of boy bands.
The person that you are sings vintage Bowie songs and dresses like a boho hippie, sporting tights so bright you have to wear shades.
The person that you are is clever and articulate and bright and interesting and interested.
The person that you are has a superb sense of the absurd, a wicked sense of humour and the dirtiest laugh of anyone I know.
The person that you are has a pet tortoise called Tiberius, after James T. Kirk, because the person that you are is a huge and unashamed member of Geekdom.
The person that you are is the finest fifteen year old any mother could wish for.
The person that you are makes my heart burst with pride.
The person that you are makes me exceptionally glad to be a parent.
The person that you are is perfect just the way you are.
I love you Tilly. Happy Birthday.