Family

Hello beauty: Carol Hirschfeld's open letter to her daughter

“You are taking your first real steps towards independence with the same curiosity and drive that had you teetering on your toes unaided at a mere nine months of age.”

There's an open suitcase on your bedroom floor and in just a few days we'll close it up and board a plane for Dunedin where your father and I will leave you to begin the rest of your life.
Next week you will officially be living away from home for the first time ever, and we will be adjusting to the idea that our only daughter is an arts student who lives in halls at the University of Otago.
It makes me laugh when I think about the typically singular way you set about securing a place there. You applied by yourself with no discussion, revealing your plans to us and friends only once you'd shaken the dice.
You are taking your first real steps towards independence with the same curiosity and drive that had you teetering on your toes unaided at a mere nine months of age. Ridiculous!
One minute a baby, next a small upright person learning to toddle and run. And we, your parents, trailing in your wake, smiling and applauding, despite the odd creased brow.
Carol and daughter Rosa on holiday together in Paris.
Since your arrival on the planet, you have amazed us with your determined, joyful appetite for life.
You do things your way and Dad and I have always secretly admired your strong-willed self-belief (even when you've kept us up at night, pacing hallways, cursing your dead phone!).
In your soon-to-be-realised absence, we will learn to replace the niggling ache of missing you by celebrating the fact you are shaping your life on your terms.
Independence of any kind has always put a skip in your step.
Five years old and you're a pony-tailed twiglet, throwing yourself off the bridge into the estuary at the height of summer, while I watch on, forcing myself to keep my arms from reaching to stop you jumping.
At 14, you insist you want a part-time job and while it is short-lived, you enjoy the thrill of shouting all your friends to a big night out at Denny's (you only tell us about this some years later).
You are and always have been the most social of butterflies. But popularity can bring its own burdens. You care deeply for your friends – you are generous in all ways and at times it ties you in knots trying to look after everyone.
The next few years will see you form new connections and some will become the deep relationships that sustain you for the rest of your life.
Loyalty comes naturally to you, and my great wish as your mother is that you will always have it returned in kind.
If it isn't, don't despair. You are smart and you are strong and you will make the decision that's right for you.
You have been the soundtrack of our household from the moment you made us a family of four; you are a talker with opinions about most things and, yes, you do have a broadcast-volume voice and don't ever let anyone tell you that's a bad thing!
Your father's been influencing your musical tastes since he played you the Ramones when you were four.
But, true to form, your playlists are all about your own tastes – music that moves your head and heart. Last night you played me your latest favourite song, and when I heard Joni Mitchell sing "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone", I found my eyes welling up.
I reminded myself it's only seven weeks to mid-term break, and when you come home I promise I'll stop hiding my moisturiser and I won't moan about the evils of Uber Eats – not once.

read more from