You might be surprised that I’m calling you that. I’m fairly sure that I haven’t before, and not just because we’re not royal.
I call you all sorts, of course. All those little terms of endearment (or, on the bad days, endurement) unique to every family. Nicknames and love names and your brothers’ sweet persistent manglings of your given name. But you’ve never been my “princess”, nor your daddy’s. Not out loud, anyway.
None of this means that you and your brothers, by simple virtue of being here, haven’t – frankly – taken up the reins (reigns?). Set our course in a direction it might not have otherwise taken. I couldn’t be prouder of being your mother. But that’s not all I am. And, likewise, you are more than my daughter. You don’t depend on your bond to either of us, though I hope that we’ll be there for you to depend on for as long as you need it.
Doubtless you’ll think I’m making a fuss over nothing. Quite possibly I am. It matters to me, though, that you know right from the outset that you’re not defined by the relationships in your life. Your brothers will probably avoid the issue. We don’t seem to feel the need to pigeonhole men depending on their families and their love lives.
If you think I’m overreacting, let me tell you about two headline stories from the last 24 hours. I hope that by the time you reach my age, there’ll be nothing like this in the papers. I hope, I pray, that if you read this in twenty years time you’ll look at me in bemusement and ask is this real?
The first, from the Daily Express, has a lovely photo of a pretty lady, and tells us all about her clothes and her famous fiancé George Clooney. It calls her “Clooney’s girl”, in fact. You’d have to read a long way down to find out that she is, in her other life, which is obviously much less vital than how she looks and who she loves, the distinguished and successful human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin. Or that the event they were attending was by virtue of her profession, not his.
There’s also been the exciting news that our prime minister (a man) is supporting a woman (I know! It’s abroad though, rather than the Cabinet, so my excitement is muted) for the position of EU President. The Daily Mail helpfully steps in for those of us not up to speed with European politics. She’s married to the son of the man who used to be Leader of the Opposition in this country. She’s also, though this is of secondary importance, prime minister of Denmark.
Newspapers are fundamentally gossip, of course, and how better to introduce someone than by reference to mutual connections – even if those connections are as tenuous as a longing gaze at ER? It is just that it only ever really happens one way round. Whatever else she has achieved in her own right, a woman’s worth seems to centre in her value to others – and it shouldn’t. It’s not original thing to say, but you are not and will never be primarily someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother…or princess.