Another earth orbit, one more trip around the sun, and suddenly my 14-year-old girl is gone, replaced by her 15-year-old self.

My firstborn and I have spent a lot of time together during summer holidays. We've welcomed grandparents from overseas, started training for our third mini-triathlon together, and have prepared her to start Year 11 at school. Already, she's freaking about exams: "It'll be so hard! I'm not ready."

Miss 15 is good at hard things. She's more ready than she knows.


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I tell her I'm proud of her work ethic, her love of sports and animals, her attention to friends and to detail. I can claim credit for keeping my daughter fed, buying her a ridiculous amount of football boots for rapidly sprouting feet; and keeping her housed and loved. However, I'm convinced old-soul kindness is braided into her DNA.

What more can I advise about how to treat people, places and things? I think of my friend Lee, who says, "Show, don't tell." It's practical guidance for writing and wise counsel for life.

I can show my daughter how to take deep breaths when I'm upset.

I can show her it's important to know how to say, "I'm sorry."

I can show her I don't overestimate my mum-ish powers when I admit there's much I don't know.

I can show her we need to get uncomfortable to get better at sport - plodding up Mauao makes us pant, no matter how many times we've practised the ascent.

I can show her mental gymnastics take time; a first draft is a sinkhole in which to toss clichés, adjectives, adverbs and flowery phrases. The good stuff is born in revision.


I can show her happy dances in the kitchen after dinner and sad sits on her bum. I can show her tears are normal and feeling blue is usually temporary.

I can show her love means laundry and lists, driving and directing.

And I demonstrate every day what it means to be fabulously flawed: focused and floundering, forgetful and fulfilled. Human.

Here's what I don't tell my teenager on the cusp of womanhood:

I don't tell her she's beautiful if I can compliment her efforts, instead. Anyone can look great online with the right filter; it's hard to fake training, trying and achieving.

I won't comment on her weight unless it threatens her health, in which case it's time to seek medical advice. Bodies grow out as well as up, often tattooing purplish lines across hips and breasts that fade with time.

I won't tell her to sidestep a challenge. Not that she would, anyways. This is a child who, when faced with the knowledge someone had pitched her end-of-term art folder, re-created eight projects in one night.

I won't compare her to her brother (okay, this one is really tough; they're 20 months apart in age but different in personality and abilities). Miss 15 gets to be her own person. Lucky her, it's easier when you're the oldest.

I don't tell her she's selfish when she's self-absorbed. My firstborn is still a child, and children are egocentric.

I don't tell her, "Don't get pregnant," but rather explain reasons to delay sex and outline consequences of what can happen if she doesn't.

I don't say, "I was never good at [math, science, soccer, etc…]," because I don't want to give her an excuse not to strive. Both my children excel in areas I either didn't attempt growing up or in which I didn't apply enough effort.

I don't tell her not to be moody. It's age. It's hormones. It's part of what I signed up for when I had kids.

I don't tell her how to choose friends. I do support her when she decides to cut ties because someone has treated her with anything less than the respect and kindness she deserves.

I don't pressure her to pick a career path. She'll likely pursue many different avenues. Miss 15 can decide who she wants to be today, rather than fretting about the future.

I don't tell her I can heal all hurts. Instead, I embrace my girl, stroke her long hair and whisper, "I love you to infinity and back."