Happy 13th birthday to my amazing daughter Kezia Rose.
My fourth child has at last reached the milestone of becoming a teenager. One big brother and two big sisters have gone through it already and are now making their way in the big wide world as adults. Kezia has waited for it to be her turn for so long. She has been so grown-up for such a long time, but now she can officially, at long last, call herself a teen!
So many people complain about the teenage years, but for me, it's one of my favourite stages of parenting. By this age, your child is well on the way to becoming the adult they will one day become. You see in them all the years of hard work that we as parents have put into their upbringing. You recognise family traits, quirks and ideologies, combining with their own individuality and uniqueness. They have their own ideas and expectations, and are at the brink of forging their own path through life.
Identities are explored through the medium of clothing, hairstyles, make-up and music. Rather than recoiling at the ripped skinny jeans and baggy band tee, the black nail varnish, back combed hair and the thick eyeliner, I rejoice in the fact that my daughter is finding herself. Her punk rock and grunge tastes mirror my own teenage choices. Music gets louder, but as Nirvana and The 1975 blare out from her room, I smile at her playlist. Instead of shouting at her to keep it down, I sing along with the songs. Ian's vinyl collection of LPs from the 70s and 80s are suddenly back in demand and we have many a session rocking out in the living room.
I have always maintained that open and honest communication with your child, recognising their right to their own opinions without judgment, is the key to parenting a teen. I love that we can discuss anything. Nothing is off limits, there is no embarrassment or censorship. She knows that whatever she is going through, I have probably been through something similar. I admit to my past mistakes and share the wisdom that has come from my age and experience. Growing up is never going to be plain sailing and I know problems are inevitable, but as long as we can discuss things with honesty and without fear, nothing is insurmountable. Burying my head in the sand is never an option. There will be relationships with boys and the temptation of numerous vices, but preparing them for such eventualities is better than denying they exist. Equipping kids with the tools to make good decisions is fundamentally important, and something I have tried to give to my kids from the word go.
Kezia is such a great person: disarmingly charming, funny with a very quick, dry wit and extremely loving and caring. I know there is a school of thought that says you should never be your teenager's friend and that if they don't say they hate you at least once, you've somehow failed as a parent. To that, I say utter rubbish! Kezia is without doubt my friend as well as my daughter. Why would I ever not want someone as wonderful as her in my life as a friend as well as a daughter? She has so much to offer and I enjoy her company no end. We can laugh together, cry together and have fun together. Long may it last.
Sharing tastes in clothing, music and films has meant there is no generation gap in our home. I remember growing up in a house where my dad's tastes hadn't evolved since the 1950s. The modern culture that I enjoyed was utterly alien to him and he made no secret of hating it all. My kids have never had to deal with that. Both myself and Ian are totally open to anything new and the kids love retro stuff. We love the same films, TV shows and music. I'll happily listen to 5 Seconds of Summer in the car and watch Misfits on Netflix. And Kezia loves her dad helping her to bleach and rip her jeans to make them look punk rock, just like we used to in the eighties. Sharing experiences is such a unifying thing.
I utterly adore my family. We have grown up together, evolved together and all have a strong allegiance for Team McD! Life is too short for fighting with your children. I believe in compromise and discussion rather than hard fast rules and laying down the law. I believe in choosing happiness and laughter over grounding or confiscating mobile phones or laptops. I don't enforce that my children do chores, I'd rather they helped out if they wanted to. I never forget that my kids have rights, just as I do, and finding a solution to problems is better than 'winning' an argument with them. Yes, they might be 'under my roof' - but it's their roof too.
I only have to look at my older kids to know that I have raised three amazing, well rounded and successful adults, who are still so close and connected to us. They are some of the best friends I have in the world. I am now raising my wonderful teenager Kezia with the same love and respect. I wouldn't want things any other way. Teenagers rock as long as you are still in touch with your own inner teen!
So happy birthday Kezia - my beautiful teenage dirtbag! We're in this together - so let's enjoy it!