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Monday, 23 July 2007


Last week, two of the most important females in my life made it through significant milestones. On Thursday, my eldest daughter Eden (5 1/2), finished her first year at school, receiving her first 'school report', and my Mum celebrated her retirement, aged 60. Both events reminded me how lucky I am. Both events made me feel proud to be connected to the family from which I come and the family which I am trying to create. Both events made me think about the kind of woman that my Mum tried to help me to become and the kind of girl that I hope I'm now helping my daughter to become. I try to avoid doing the stupidly proud parent thing too often, and so I won't bore you with all the details of Eden's school report. But I will tell you five phrases out of the two page document which left me with that unmistakable glowing feeling: 'independent in making choices'; 'very focused'; 'fun'; 'full of positive energy' and 'helpful towards others'. None of these describe Eden's academic skills, but for me, if Eden can retain these characteristics, they'll be so much more important than the results she'll get as she progresses through school. Listening to my Dad's speech at my Mum's retirement party later the same day, it really came home to me how much of a positive influence my mother has been on my life, and just how hard it will be ever to live up the kind of example she has set for us. Mum is a consistently upbeat, balanced and calm person, rarely ruffled by anything. She is 'formidably intelligent', as my Dad would put it. She can talk the hind leg off a donkey. About anything. She has a frighteningly impressive general knowledge about everything from sport through politics. She is full of life and positive energy. She is happy in her own skin. She is very strong. She is a 'coper'. She makes people feel comfortable. She is full of wisdom. She is a natural 'counsellor'. Mum gave up huge chunks of her life and a potential career in social work to raising my brothers and me when we were small, without so much as a resentful word, despite the fact that she could easily have had a very successful career. Much later on in life, when we were all a great deal older, she made herself an entirely new career in teaching, just like that. The main thing Mum taught me was that I could do anything. The world was my oyster, so why not? She always made me feel secure. She always made me feel loved. She always protected me fiercely in a crisis or a confrontation, but at the same time she taught me to stick up for myself. She taught me a particular brand of 'no-nonsense', 'pull-your-socks-up' Britishness which I'm sure still carries me through many a sticky patch. Importantly, she always offered advice and provided a safety net, but she never made choices for me. She vehemently advocated independence. I wanted to say something at Mum's retirement party but I felt too emotional to make a speech: I wanted to make sure everyone acknowledged that her greatest achievements were in her career as a Mother; in launching us all into the world in such an empowering way. And I know now that Eden's school report reads as it does in large part because my Mum's influence is already extending into the next generation.

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