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The speech I gave for my daughter’s 21st birthday celebration

My daughter turned 21 on March 24, 2014 and this was the speech I gave for her 21st birthday celebration. I raised her as a single parent, and it was warmly received by her and her guests. If you want inspiration to help you write your speech, you download my FREE* and Rather Excellent List of 25 Resources, Ideas and Examples for Writing 21st Birthday Celebration Speeches, by clicking here.

20140223-193319.jpgI was 29 when Tessa Rose Lee came into the world on Wednesday, 24th of March, 1993 at 2.07 am. She weighed 6 lbs 10 oz, which is about 3 and a half kilograms. She was 13 days late, and I was in labour from the Monday evening, and had her by Caesarian section on the Wednesday morning, because she really didn’t want to come out. Some things haven’t changed—she still likes a sleep-in (she’s only a morning person twice a year—Christmas and her birthday) but interestingly, she hates being late! If she got nothing else from me, she did get my intolerance to tardiness! Sorry, Daniel!

When I started writing this speech, Tessa made me promise not to embarrass her. That’s a pretty easy promise to keep, because she’s been a fairly problem free child, even as a teenager. I do have a couple of funny stories though, and I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you. She did want to make sure that Bella (our beloved kitty cat) got a mention, so I’ll tell that story first.

Bella is a rescue cat—she came to us via the RSPCA as a six month old kitten—about six years ago. Tessa would have been about 15. Bella is a black cat, and when I told Tessa that we were getting a black kitty, she had a minor freak-out. “But I don’t like black cats,” she said. “They are scary and evil.” Apparently, she formed this opinion at four years of age because one scared her through the window of the unit we used to live in it at Firle. So I did what I always do when Tessa has a minor freak out—I ignored her. Needless to say, Bella is a much loved member of our family, and Tessa is fully aware of the pecking order in our house: Bella, me then Tessa. Tessa loves it when I go overseas and she’s the one that has to empty Bella’s tray! Not.

As most of you know, I raised Tessa as a solo parent—I made that decision when I was about three months pregnant with her. “Thanks for the child,” I said to her father, “but this isn’t going to work out.” I was keeping with the general theme of my family demographics with that decision. My immediate family is very matriarchal. Lots of girls and women—not many men—and understandably, Tessa really didn’t have the words to describe the male of the species. So she made them up. I remember picking her up from University child care when she was about three, hopping on the bus with her, and she pointed at a teenage boy and said “Look Mummy… there’s a Jessie”. Unbeknownst to me, she had started calling all teenage boys Jessie, after Jessie Spencer on Neighbours! I also discovered that she called old men “Nannymen” because she associated old with “nanny”, which is her name for my mother. She is still rather creative with language if you follow some of our exchanges on Facebook. When she was in high school she used to say, quite outraged: “Don’t comment me, Mum!” Of course, I always reminded her that I was on Facebook first. Must have sucked to have a tech savvy mum around as a teenager!

If you’re giving a speech for daughter’s or son’s 21st, and you are stuck for what to write, then you need my Rather Excellent List of 25 Resources, Ideas and Examples for Writing 21st Birthday Celebration Speeches. It’s FREE* and you can get it by clicking here!

Speaking of social media and funny exchanges, I have been going back over some of my old blogs and found quite a few instances where I wrote down the quirky things she said. There’s this one when she was about 13:

Teenie has decided that she would like to be referred to as Lydia in these blogs from now on.

Peering over my shoulder while I was writing yesterday, she asked: “Who is Teenie?”

“You,” I said.

“That’s not my name! Why are you calling me Teenie?”

“Because you don’t put your real name on these things,” I replied. “I’m protecting your identity.”

“Well, I don’t like it! What sort of stupid name is that?”

“I’m quite happy for you to pick some other name.”

“OK. I will,” she said. “I’ll get back to you on that.”

This morning, she announced that Lydia was her preferred pseudonym. And in the interests of family peace, who am I to argue?

In that blog, she was henceforth known as Lydia. I was surprised she didn’t pick Rosita, which is what she wanted to change her name to when she was two or three. For non-Sesame Street viewers, Rosita was a muppet that she really, really, really liked.

Here’s another entry before she became Lydia:

I went to see “Good Night and Good Luck” last night, and was so inspired by the courage of Ed Murrow (I had never heard of him before the movie) and his team. When I got home, Teenie asked me what the movie was about.

“Rebels,” I answered.

“You would have liked that,” she replied.

She knows me too well! And there was this post when she graduated from primary school. She would have been 12:

Pre-Teen had her primary school graduation (yes, primary school graduation!) a couple of weeks ago. I must admit I did get a bit emotional, and I told her she was growing up so fast, and couldn’t believe she was going to be in high school.

“When did that happen?” I asked.

“It started in 1993, mum,” was the rather witty reply.

Tessa has four names for me: Mum, Mother, Mummy and Mumma—depending on what she wants. I have five for her: Tessa, Tessie, Tessie Rosebud, Tessie Bear and Daughter, depending on how annoyed I am with her. I have never called her Tess, although her friends do. She nearly ended up being a Harmony or an Ebony, until I saw a movie just a few weeks before she was born, where one of the young characters was called Tessa. I fell in love with the name—I thought it would be an excellent name for a baby AND an old lady—and at the time, there weren’t too many Tessas around. Luckily, it suited her. In primary school—she would have been in Year 2—she made me a Christmas Card that said “Merry Christmas, Mummy, from your daughter, Tessa P.” Unfortunately, someone else had the same idea as me during that era and named THEIR child Tessa. Actually there were three Tessas in her year group! So until I changed our surname to Lee—when she was 8—she was Tessa P. Then she was Tessa L. on future Christmas Cards, not Tessa Lee. Go figure!

Make sure you download my Rather Excellent List of 25 Resources, Ideas and Examples for Writing 21st Birthday Celebration Speeches. It’s FREE* and you can get it by clicking here!

Tessa started working at 13 after declaring that she couldn’t survive on the pocket money that I paid her (I think it was about $5 a week AND she had to work for it). Her first job was Dominos, then Red Rooster, then Foodland, where she stayed for four or five years—apart from a very brief stint as a hairdressing apprentice—until she started working at DPTI, where she has been for the last couple of years. She has wonderful qualities of being reliable, punctual, witty and she tends to stick at things, including people. A lot of you have known Tessa since she was a baby, or from when she was quite young. A lot of you are from her primary or high school years, or years where she worked at Foodland and I see her DPTI work colleagues here. Daniel and his family have been in Tessa’s life since she was 16, and look like they are here to stay, which makes me very happy. The point is, the people who come into Tessa’s life tend to stay because she is loyal, she loves her peeps and they love her.

To sum up, this is Tessa’s night, but it’s also sorta kinda mine. I’ve done a lot of awesome stuff that I’m really proud of, but Tessa is by far my greatest achievement, to quote you, Creins. Everything good that has happened in my life has happened because I had Tessa, because I had to make decisions that forced me to think about what was best for her. And generally speaking, what was good for her turned out to be good for me.

Tessa, you truly are beautiful, inside AND out. I love you high as the sky, around the moon and back again. I’m couldn’t be prouder of the woman you have become. And I couldn’t have wished for a more wonderful^ daughter.

^ If I had my time again, knowing what I know now about how the evening finished up, I would have rewritten the ending. The second paragraph in my speech is a clue as to why. I have written a post that elaborates.

* Full disclosure: my Rather Excellent List of 25 Resources, Ideas and Examples for Writing 21st Birthday Celebration Speeches is completely free, but you’ll need to subscribe to my email list to download it.

Image credit: Pixabay.

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