In 1997 John Howard was Prime Minister, Princess Di was still on the magazine covers, Barbie Girl was a hit song and The Castle was making us laugh in the cinema.
Meanwhile at the old Royal Women’s Hospital in Paddington a woman, with a pain threshold so low ripping off a bandaid could generate bouts of hysterical weeping, was attempting to give birth. Somehow dear Hippie Child I got through the pain barrier (OK I went the epidural) and you arrived in the world.
It’s tough being the eldest. You are the crash test dummy for all that follow after you. I had no idea what I was doing but armed with mountains of parenting books I had a PLAN. I knew what the RULES where going to be. However, in one week you managed to ditch the plan and every rule had to be abandoned, obviously you hadn’t read What to Expect in The First Year!
We were on our own a lot, Dad was at sea and none of my Sydney friends had children. So you and I bumbled our way through, spending a lot of time walking around shopping centres and visiting the Prince of Wales Children’s Hospital in the middle of the night. I suspect your night-time screaming was really just a clever tactic to get yourself out of the house, as soon as we entered the hospital you would start grinning and googling delightfully at the staff.
“I swear she has screamed non-stop for six hours, she was screwed up in a little ball, she looked like she was in pain, really she did”.
To this day I reckon our file is marked “suspected Munchausen by proxy syndrome – mother irrational, child delightful”.
We soldiered on and you grew to be a self-reliant little thing. You learnt to make yourself peanut butter sandwiches and how to operate the VCR when you two. I was laid up in bed with chronic morning sickness and so you pretty much had to take care of yourself. Can I just say, given the opportunity, two-year-olds can be quite capable!
Now here we are with you at 16, you can start to learn to drive, we are heading off to an information night at school next week to discuss “the future” and subject choices for the HSC. God help us!
We are again in unchartered territory you and I. Trying to figure out a way to survive the teenage years. It’s complicated and scary. In just three short years I will be waving you goodbye, out into the big world, for the first time without me. This mothering gig is tough, my entire role is to make myself obsolete, to create a child confident enough to head off without so much as a backward glance.
Your constant laughter and many talents reassure me that when the time comes to venture out you will do well.
It’s been a wild and wonderful ride as we have learnt “on the job” together.
Enjoy being 16.