• Lara Flanagan

Letter to Archie and Rissie - 13 years old

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Dear Archie and Rissie

As I said to you this morning on the phone, 13 years ago I was preparing to go into surgery for your birth. My pregnancy was not warm and fuzzy, I hated it. I occasionally got violent urges to slap pregnant women who glowed. I was sick every day and the only good thing about it was that the day after I gave birth to you, I was 10 kilos lighter than around the time I got pregnant. In utero, it was discovered that you had some sort of arrhythmia Archie, that meant we had a surgical team on standby in case you needed surgery immediately after birth. Luckily it was a benign arrhythmia that fixed itself immediately on leaving my uterus so thank god for that. My epidural stopped working for just under 2 minutes so the birth was not warm and fuzzy either. By the time you were born, I looked at you both on the scales through a haze of pain and tears and thought that you were the strangest things I had ever seen. I hoped that you would improve with age as you both looked like creatures from the deep. By the time you are 21, I will have elaborated on your birth story, so that it resembles Armageddon. That way you will feel guilty enough to look after me as I age disgracefully and with a great deal of annoying eccentricity.

I was given many pieces of advice before you were born but one of the pieces that stayed with me forever was from my dear friend Julie-chan. After the birth of her son, she had asked her mum how long she had to say no for and her mum told her for about 16 years and then her job was done. For years I felt like I said no to you all the time. No to bad manners, no to cruelty, no to spending money. No to birthday presents, no to Christmas presents. No to spending money on things we didn’t need. No to clothes we didn’t need, no to souvenirs when we travelled. No to looking for fights. No to answering back to arseholes. Increasingly though I didn’t need to say no and I thank god every day for that piece of advice.

I look at you both today and my cup runneth over. Thankfully you didn’t look like creatures from the deep for too long and I am constantly in awe of the fact that I made you from scratch.

Once again a few words of wisdom from your Momma…..

Be kind

Continue being kind. Kindness is king. Remember that most times it is better to be kind than right. If someone is being mean, chances are it is their issue, not yours and the kindest thing you can do is walk away. Remember that until you have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes you have no idea about their path. So be kind. Every day I see your kindness and your kindness makes me prouder than anything else.

Be brave

80% of life is simply showing up. If you are going to succeed at anything, you are going to fail along the way. So keep on getting up and showing up, even if it terrifies you. Throughout your life, you have experienced much. I can remember on that god-awful trip home from Italy to farewell our lovely Tiney, I came apart at the seams. When I lay face down on the floor of a nameless airport because I couldn’t breathe, you were so brave. You waited until I could breathe, then stand. You helped us check-in for the next leg, you organised our food requests. You were so brave, especially considering I wasn’t. Archie, for three months you trudged off to a school that was hell for you and didn’t let me know what was going on, because you thought I had enough on my plate. That was bravery. Being brave is sometimes just about showing up, even when it scares you. 9 times out of 10, the things that scare us never happen anyway. So be brave and be open to life because it is filled with the most incredible opportunities, especially if you are brave.

Be hopeful

No matter how bad things are, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There is always hope and I never want you to forget that. You are a part of a unique generation of children who have known drought, fire, months of smoke and ash, and now an international pandemic. But despite it all, there is always hope. Never forget it, no matter much life terrifies you or challenges you or how bleak it might be, I want you to never forget there is hope. And if you do momentarily forget that, please speak to me. Your Momma is brimming over with hope, I can be the light at the end of your tunnel if you ever get to the place when you feel that you are in the dark. Life is never, ever hopeless, regardless of the challenges you face. Ahead of zombie apocalypses, teenage pregnancies, and crack cocaine addiction I fear the loss of hope. So never, ever lose hope because it would make me cross.

Remember that happiness is a choice

Sometimes life sucks, but life is a rollercoaster, not a carousel. For every low, there will be a high and the lows make the highs even more glorious. Sometimes happiness is really tough, especially when you are blue, tired, sick, scared, or alone. But always remember, every morning when you wake up that you can choose happiness or you can choose misery. Choose happiness, choose for your cup to be half-full, choose to see the sunrises so you can remember what an incredible world you live in. Choose to enjoy the wonder of a dog’s head on your knee. Choose to smell the roses. Choose happiness. Choose joy. Choose to wrap yourself in the magic of a life well-lived.

Be a traveller, not a tourist

The world is an amazing place. You live in a privileged country where you don’t have to worry about education, health-care, terrorism, automatic weapons on the street, or Trump. Explore your back-yard and travel further afield. Travel slowly, absorb the world around you, and always be grateful that you are Australian. When you travel, don’t be a tourist, be a traveller. Stay long, stay well, and remember that when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you ever want to live in Italy, I won’t complain, but I will visit and stay.

Archie and Rissie, what an adventure these 13 years have been. We lived in a tiny white apartment where you would shower on the beach. You were by my side when we packed up the little red car and moved to a tiny country town that I knew nothing about. We lived in a crazy mansion and you played in the cold room. You were by my side when I wandered around the cottage, not believing it was mine. You were so patient and strong when the fatigue and pain hit, especially in the early years. You donned backpacks that were almost as big as you. Rissie you freaked out when we had to sleep on the floor of Penn Station and you were with me when we lived off hope in Rhode Island. You got lost with me in Central Park and helped me to throw away the maps and the plans and the schedules. You lived in a shack by the beach and were woken by the terrifying screech of Howler Monkeys. You taught English to Costa Rican kids and learned how well some can live with so little. You marched against Washington in Rhode Island and held placards and shouted for equality and humanity.

You saw me fall in love in Italy with the sheer beauty of a place that resides in my soul. You ate endless gelato, explored, laughed, and got lost in Florence with me. You knew why I cried when I finally got to the Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice. You grieved with me when Tiney left us and you learned about loss. You are now in High School and have a beautiful group of friends.

You have seen and done so much, constantly at my side. I am prouder of you than you will ever know.

When I look at our amazing 13 years, I would not change anything apart from one thing. I only wish that Tiney was here to blow out a candle and make a wish for you.

So Momma’s wisdom on your 13th birthday. Be kind, be brave, be hopeful, choose happiness, and be a traveller, not a tourist. I can't wait for the next 13 years.

Happy Birthday Archie and Rissie.

With love, your Momma.

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