Gussie loves animating and musicals and Dairy Milk chocolate and hates Donald Trump.

She is on the second volume of a novel she is writing about a one-eyed cat called Emeraldeye. (It's surprisingly bloodthirsty for such a sensitive child.)

She still makes me choose her clothes, but she has very sophisticated ideas about gender fluidity.

She loves animals and she is an INFP. She lives on plain pasta. She goes to sleep listening to aquarium music to distract her from having an existential crisis about the vastness of the universe. She is very patient with her little brother. And she turns 13 today.


Happy birthday Gussie and here is a column for you. Sorry I didn't start with "Gussie is the best daughter in the world" as you suggested. But here are some other messages specially for you. That I don't expect you to listen to. (I know "Stop ranting, mum")


I'm not going to lie. It's hard being born sensitive. We can cut off scratchy labels, and avoid crowds and food with lumps, but no matter what, it's still traumatic.

Life is filled simultaneously with breath-taking joy and beauty, sorrow, anguish and chaos; shivering, lost pets and Bach's Goldberg variations, all mooshed together. The system is not designed all that well, to be honest. Sorry about that.


I'm really sorry I let you down about the sports thing. I shouldn't have kept saying "You don't have sporty genes" (And sorry again for running alongside you in my gold Celine boots on the cross country).

But on the plus side, I do make you go swimming a lot, don't I? Carry on being a water baby. Water is life and healing and mood-changing and there is no poet for whom water is not a first love.


I have to confess, I was quite proud that you never had a single doll as a child, let alone evinced the slightest desire for a Barbie. You have always had exemplary taste. You were into animating software and the musical Hamilton aged 10. And you were right, Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman are genius. But if you want to like stuff that is not my taste -say, wear those tiny Daisy Duke jean shorts that so many girls your age seem to love - that's fine too. You're allowed your own experience.


If you can, start as early as you can embracing being a misfit. A heroic misfit, even. It makes life so much easier. Understanding some of us just do life weird and embracing your misfittery can save your life. Don't forget to sing in the lifeboats. (Although you also sometimes remind me of Saffron from Absolutely Fabulous. You won't know who she is, but some readers might remember.)


Please keep writing your stories. Sometimes there will be kicky evidence of your transgressive brilliance, other times it will be dross. But no one else can tell your story.

Also, keep playing the piano and doing your acting, and battling your perfectionism.


Maybe some children need to be taught to consciously consider how their behaviour impacts on other people. But you already have exquisite, often painful, oodles of empathy for others. In your case, you might need to learn to have some empathy for yourself.

Sometimes you need to identify with yourself and have compassion for your own pain.


Friends aren't just the icing on the cake. Friends aren't even the cake. Friends are the vegetables. I can't tell you how happy it has made me seeing you having such a good friend in Lola.

But there will be ups and downs in your friendships. Just know it is possible to have differences and remain in relationship. No-one needs to be made "wrong."


Don't over-value intelligence. It's good to be curious and try to understand things and draw wiring diagrams, but having a sense of self is more important than being brainy.


I should shove in a thank you here. You have probably taught me more than I've taught you. (Gussie: "Mum, this is cheesy") Remember that time Bram got upset because he hadn't got a certificate at assembly, so you made him one? And because of you I've learnt to say "Don't get in a pickle" when I can tell I'm about to have a spinny fit.


You have goodness inside you. It is there all the time. No matter what. No matter if you let yourself down, or fail, or stuff-up or don't win or are rejected by someone you love. Your goodness is always there. And it will be there after I'm gone. (Someone called this "Mummy juice" but that sounds a bit creepy.) But it's your soul and it is good. Always.

Turning 13 is just another step in the process of me having to let you go.

As Anne Lamott said: you can't run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and a juicebox on their hero's journey. You have to release them. It's disrespectful not to.