Life

To My Niece On Your 13th Birthday

I always pride myself on being your cool Aunty. As the years go by, I am coming to the conclusion that this might not actually be the case. For example, I am about to say something that only deeply uncool old people say;

“I don’t know where the last 13 years have gone.”

You have grown up so quickly and I feel desperately sad that the cute, bonkers little toddler is now a sassy, bonkers teenager. Although I miss your little squishy face, the best thing about you growing up, is that you have become my best mate.  Often, I forget you are only 13 and I really need to rein in the language and possibly some of my jokes too. You seem so mature and I love that we have a humour all of our own. Being 35 and having a 13-year-old best friend is a little… unusual. I know. But I don’t mean it in a Michael Jackson/Macauley Culkin odd way. It is more like I get the best bits of having a daughter, without any of the crap.

As I am in uncool Aunty mode, I thought I would mark your first real milestone birthday, the day you officially say goodbye to your childhood and make that huge journey through adolescence into adulthood, by sharing a few things you should know. Some of which I really wish I had known. Bear with me whilst I get all preachy. I promise I won’t do this again.

Social media is all lies

I am so glad that I didn’t have to endure my teens and early twenties under the spotlight of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. The obsessive need for everyone to portray their lives as perfect is not healthy. I have walked past people in the street that I am ‘friends’ with on social media but did not recognise because they are usually air brushed and face tuned to death. You cannot airbrush life. Sometimes there is no good lighting or perfect angle. Everyone wakes up with breath like dog poo. Everyone farts. Everyone has bad hair days. No one looks perfect all the time. Don’t feel that pressure because even those people you think look perfect, who have the most exciting lives at the best parties, will have bad days. They will look like crap, they will feel down, they will feel lonely, they will have messy bedrooms and wear hideous underwear when they are on their periods. They will do all that but they choose to portray something else. Don’t believe the hype. Their life is normal, just like yours.

There is no Instagram filter for a bad attitude

In this superficial, super public world, where aesthetics are paramount, people forget to be kind. It is a really simple, old-fashioned philosophy but it is the most important one. You are kind. It is one of the many reasons I love you. You care about others. You are friendly. You want people to be happy. That is the prettiest thing you can be. Being kind shines right out of your face, #nofilter. (I get cooler with every sentence) Remember that in real life, where it actually matters, being kind to others is more important than a Moschino school bag or a Kenzo jumper. It is more important than a nice house or an expensive car or great make up. The best thing about being kind to others, is that kindness comes right back to you and gives you a massive cuddle. It’s nice that, isn’t it?

Know your worth

Growing up is about finding what matters to you, finding who you are. It’s a big journey. I’m still on it. The thing to hold on tight to throughout that journey is your worth. Know exactly what you bring to the table. You bring humour. You bring intelligence. You bring kindness. You have something about you that makes others feel good. You are enough. You are f’ing brilliant. (Soz aba the swears) Even when you have a wobble, always know you are the reason so many people wake up in the morning. You are one of my reasons to wake up. Self-esteem and confidence are not the same. I have learned this the hard way. Confidence is about faking it until you are making it. Confidence is something you build up over time. It is a measure of growth. Self esteem is about valuing yourself and that should never, ever change. It is constant. Never, ever lose it.

Be wrong with confidence

I would hate for your dad to think he had taught me anything, so we’ll keep this between us. He once told me to be wrong with confidence and it is such good advice. Make the mistakes. Make the bad decisions. Own it. Take the knock and get right back up. It is how you learn and grow so. Do not be afraid. Just be brave. All you can ever do is your best and that is always good enough. My teens were spectacularly bad but resilience was the best thing to come from them. Every cringey moment has taught me a lesson, every broken heart has made me stronger. It is fine to be fallible. You are human. When you get to my age, you get to have some big laughs at what a divvy you were. Oh, so many laughs. A little too many in my case, but you know, whatevs.

Laugh

Never lose your humour. Thank you for laughing when I call you Edna Mode. It is a joke and you are beautiful. I know you have laughed at SO many pictures of me so, you know, revenge and all that. But when things are really bad, there will always be something to laugh about. I promise. Even if it is just laughing at the memory of me being sick in a bin at Alton Towers. I love how much fun we have together. Keep being fun. Keep being you.

Be weird

Never be afraid to be weird. Weird is good. Weird shows independent thought. It shows personality. It shows fearlessness. I’m weird and it took me a long time to be ok with that. I think one of the reasons you like me is because I am weird, so remember that. The weird bits are often our most loveable bits. Being different is what sets us apart. Don’t try too hard to fit in. Just be you because you are amazing. I love that you were weird enough to want to call your hamster Big Nasty. I am still gutted that you went with Coconut. Next time, go with the weird.

You are so loved

Your mum and dad lucked out when they had you. From day one, you have been a dream for them and for us, as a family. Many people don’t understand why I don’t yearn to have a daughter. I am happy with my two gorgeous sons and my amazing niece. You fill the girl gap perfectly. I love you as much as it is possible to love a child that you do not have parental responsibility for. You have a ridiculous amount of family. I can’t remember how many grandparents you have exactly but all 75,000 of them idolise you. Each aunty and uncle and cousin, all think you are amazing. To all of parents’ friends, you are hilarious and your godfather adores you. Not many children have as much love as you do. You are incredibly special and you must always remember that. Especially when life gets tough.

Matilda & I, 2018

So happy 13th birthday, goth head. Hope the day is as lovely as you. I’ll try and be much, much cooler from now on.

Lots of love

Aunty Jem xx

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