The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

S ome­how, The Small Gi rl is 17. And while each pass­ing year of my chil­dren’s lives brings fresh ou­trage over the de­spi­ca­ble speed at which their lives are un­fold­ing, there is some­thing par­tic­u­larly out­ra­geous about this mile­stone. This time, I de­mand a stew­ard’s en­quiry. She can’t be 17; she just can’t.

I know that democ­racy and drink (legally) be­gin at 18, but for me, that has al­ways seemed a mere tech­ni­cal­ity. I am no longer shocked when my friend’s chil­dren turn 18, as I am still reel­ing from the mon­stros­ity of their be­ing 17 a year ear­lier. Be­cause the thing is, I can re­mem­ber be­ing 17 and fully formed.

My pol­i­tics, for ex­am­ple, haven’t changed very much at all since I was 17. I still de­scribe my­self as lib­eral and left — which I re­alise makes me, some 30 years later, what Mar­garet Thatcher once de­scribed as a ‘failed per­son’ (a fail­ure com­pounded by my con­tin­u­ing in­sis­tence on us­ing pub­lic trans­port) — and if I am no longer as in­censed by nu­clear power as I was at 17 (when I proudly sported a ‘nein danke’ but­ton badge), then it’s only be­cause the rest of the world has more or less moved on as well.

I had a boyfriend, too, at 17 — a proper, grown- up thing with a 19 year old who had a job. It lasted the best part of a year, that re­la­tion­ship, and didn’t in­volve ei­ther of our friends ‘ask­ing if we wanted to go with them’. We went to the cin­ema and pubs and gigs and night­clubs to­gether, and we spent New Year’s Eve at a din­ner dance in the Green Isle Ho­tel (which I hated, in much the same way as I would hate such an event now). My best friend then is my best friend now, and the kind of gigs that we went to to­gether, we still go to now. I used to go to Croke Park and the theatre with my Dad at that age, and al­though that is sadly no longer pos­si­ble, I still spend a ridicu­lous amount of time in both places. And for all that I was a bit of a flib­ber­ti­gib­bet at 17, I am a flib­ber­ti­gib­bet now. In fact, when I look back — with enor­mous clar­ity — at the per­son I was then, there is no part of me that won­ders what the hell that was about.

I told him I was hear­ing voices in my head telling me to split up with him. We stayed split up for all of a fort­night

And so I look at the 17-year-old Small Girl now, and I think, this is it. This is her, the woman she will al­ways be. And I see so much of my­self in her that it’s some­times scary. She will al­ways be bad at man­ag­ing time and sur­pris­ingly good at man­ag­ing money. She will al­ways be self-mo­ti­vated and stub­born and just a lit­tle bit nutty. She will al­ways fall breath­lessly in love with boys with gui­tars and she will deliver pas­sion­ate, but not ex­actly bril- liantly thought- out lec­tures about in­jus­tice where and when she en­coun­ters it.

Some of you might know her now. Not from me, from all these years of my chron­i­cling her path through life — but be­cause she is fully formed; be­cause be­ing my daugh­ter is now the least im­por­tant thing about her. You might know her mu­sic, from her Face­book or her Soundcloud — and if you don’t, then you should check out her band, Spines, on both. You might have seen her modelling shots, or caught one of her live per­for­mances.

You won’t have seen the school re­port that ar­rived this week, which con­firmed that in spite of her out­side pas­sions and her green hair, she is some­how fac­ing into her fi­nal year in school roughly point­ing in the right di­rec­tion. The point is that she is no longer an ab­stract idea on a page, nor is she an oc­ca­sion­ally mad­den­ing but adorable child who pro­nounces ‘cin­ema’ as ‘cimena’. At a cou­ple of inches shorter than I, she will al­ways be a Small Girl, but she is a woman, my daugh­ter.

And I’m telling all of this to a friend re­cently, and she asks me how my own 17 year old grown-up re­la­tion­ship ended. And with­out think­ing twice, I tell her that I grew bored with the boyfriend, so I told him I was hear­ing voices in my head telling me to split up with him. And how we stayed split up for all of a fort­night, un­til I saw him kiss­ing some­body else and even though I was bored wit­less with him, I made a point of win­ning him back. ‘Very ma­ture,’ she con­firms, ‘very fully formed.’ And if that wasn’t the kind of crazy carry- on that I would still be per­fectly ca­pa­ble of to­day, I might even agree.

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