Shallow Breathing and Big Words

Dear Darling,

I’m scared. I know I like you to think that nothing much scares me (and truth is, not much does), but there is something that absolutely petrifies me…

It’s the times where there’s a gap in our conversation. When there’s things that get unsaid, and there’s something on your mind that you feel you can’t share. When those quiet moments hit, my motherhood flips into overdrive, as I relentlessly try to figure out what it is you’re thinking about. It was a lot easier to do this when you were a toddler or cherubic, enthusiastic preschooler. You didn’t shut up, once, during that time. You talked, nonstop, from the moment you woke up…and sometimes carried on even when your eyes were closed.


As you’ve grown up, you’ve become quieter. This isn’t a concern – it’s normal, as you create your own inner world. This is a good thing, I endorse it. The realm of words and inner thought became a safety net for me in the world, and it served me well. Your gran used to call it a fortress, and she was right.

But this letter isn’t about the gaps or the silences. It’s about the things you weigh your words down with, before you speak them to me. These things are sometimes saddled in a fear of disappointing me, or of hurting me, because I’ve upset you. I want to give you these ten rules to follow, when you think something is or should be weighed down by those thoughts or words. These can be our system – you know how we have that system where I help you study? This is a system like that, and just like we’ve totally cracked the studying system together, and by sticking to it, we get through everything? We can crack and apply this one too.  Please tell me if you have anything to add.

1. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all could lead me to be disappointed in you. Your existence on this Earth is the greatest gift of all time. You could fail at school, dance the macarena in a chicken outfit, or get arrested for shoplifting, or anything at all. Whatever it is, ever, I will be right there by your side. The circumstances of it do not matter at all to me, and never will, when your safety and the light in your eyes is in danger.

2. If it’s 3am and you think you would rather not bug me, wake me up, whatever… Wake me up. I would rather lose a night of sleep than anything else. I’ve been losing sleep for years, another night of none of it isn’t going to break me. Nothing like that can.

3. You can tell me absolutely anything, and I’m not going to judge you. You might think those are hollow words, but they’re not. You can tell me that you’d like to give up on humanity and become a swan, and I’ll support it. Wholeheartedly. Will even get you a swan outfit…I know a guy, okay?

4. If something needs to be fixed and you don’t know how to fix it, hand it all over to me. My hands are older and have fixed many screwups over time. Many. So many I can’t even count them anymore, and most of them were created by me. Let me help you fix things. Hand it to me and we’ll get on it.

5. Remember when I told you, at about the age of 4, that worrying was my job, and your job was to be a kid? This is still true. Let me worry about money, madness and whatever there is to worry about. If there’s something to worry about, put it on my to do list. I’ve got all the space in the world for that. You focus on that whole life of yours. You know how we remind each other of which team we’re on? Yep. I’m on your team, no matter what. Always.

6. Something crushingly embarrassing happened today at school. Tell me. Listen, you’re talking to the girl who used to wet her pants in class. No, not preschool. Primary school. Yes, in like maths class. Yes, it was fractions. I’ve done the embarrassing stuff. We can handle it together. I’ve got zero shame on this stuff.

7. When you think someone is better than you, you’re being shoved into a ‘comparison’ thought frame. Comparison, some say, is the thief of joy. We’re not into comparing. Why? Because your emergence into this world was a unique and presiding moment, as is every other moment in your life since then. Nobody else lives them, except you. So don’t you fret about how your moment is different/lesser/better than someone else’s. It’s not. It’s yours. If you need a reminder, I’ve got many at the ready for you.

8. Absolutely nothing – deadlines, work, meetings, the dog, domestic tasks, other people, geographical distance, anything – can get in my way when you say the words:

“I need you”.
Nothing. At. All. Say them and I will be there.

9. This is something I don’t admit to many people, but I will today. There was a time in my life (many years ago, long before your life began) when I thought it was all crap, and I didn’t really want to continue. Everything seemed absolutely insurmountable, and I thought that quitting the game would be far easier than trying to level up. But I levelled up, and have continued to level up ever since. How did I do this? I did this because someone and a particular set of circumstances forced me into opening up and sharing the things I was too scared to share, that sat in my head and weighed down all of my words. The moment I let those things go, they no longer weighed down my words. Maybe that’s the flight of them, and maybe I had to learn to let them go. Whatever you do, no matter what, remember that the things that weigh you down are not too heavy to be lifted. You are not duty bound to lift them alone. Nobody actually is – even the strongest person on the planet gets some help sometimes. There’s no shame in it, it’s just what people do.

10. You are infinitely loved. Even when you think you are unloveable. If you need a reminder, refer to point 8 and I will remind you.