AHEAD of Mother’s Day, actress and TV presenter Denise Van Outen, 48, writes a heartfelt letter to daughter Betsy, who will soon become a teenager.
Denise Van Outen today writes a heartfelt open letter to her daughter Betsy, 12, opening up about their struggles and worriesCredit: Karis Kennedy
Denise and Betsy pictured togetherCredit: Supplied
I DON’T know where the time has gone.
It seems like only yesterday that I cradled you, just minutes old, in my arms, suddenly feeling this huge weight of responsibility.
You took my breath away and I knew then that I would spend the rest of my life wanting to protect you.
So it seems mad to think of that 7lb 10oz bundle now being on the cusp of becoming a teenager.
And I’m in awe of the brilliant, bright young woman you’re blossoming into.
Life hasn’t always been easy and we’ve had a few ups and downs along the way, but your resilience, positivity and the way you face everything head on constantly amazes me.
We laugh a lot too, don’t we?
Even when you were a toddler you had a natural gift for comedy.
I’ve got a video of you trying to blow up some balloons when you were about two.
You were so determined and your whole face was popping out as you blew.
It really gave me the giggles and when you realised I was laughing, you did it all the more.
Sometimes I look back on those early years and wish I could time travel and do it all over again.
I used to take you everywhere with me.
You were five months old when I was in Legally Blonde with Sheridan Smith in the West End, and you would sleep in the dressing room while I was on stage.
You were such a good baby I could bring you along for the ride.
I reckon that’s why you’re so outgoing because from a young age you were used to mixing in lots of different circles.
When me and your dad (actor Lee Mead, 41) separated, we were adamant we didn’t want this to affect you.
You were just three and we both had a duty of care to make everything the best it possibly could be.
To be honest, it was never too difficult — me and your dad have always had a great deal of respect for each other and co-parenting came naturally.
Even now when he drops you off after you’ve stayed at his, he’ll usually come in for a cuppa, so you can see that our relationship is genuine.
Do you remember the three of us going to Disneyland Paris when you were five?
Your dad and I hadn’t been a couple for a while by then and I know some people thought it was strange us all going away together, but we’ve never stopped being a family.
Betsy, the way you’ve coped with the challenges thrown at you has been incredible.
You’ve had your struggles at school with dyslexia and dyspraxia, but you handle it all with a maturity way beyond your years.
You probably feel that you have to work harder than some of the other children, but you never give up and don’t ever think that goes unnoticed.
It’s been fantastic to watch your creativity develop over the years.
One of your passions is knitting and you’re so good at it.
The other day you laid out some beautiful patchwork scarves on the dining table which you’d spent a few weeks knitting.
You told me you’d done them to send to the children in Ukraine and my heart just about burst.
I know every parent is biased when it comes to their children, but you’re such a nice kid. You’re funny, kind and sensitive.
Every year your school report remarks on how caring you are towards other children and that means more to me than anything academic.
People ask me which traits you’ve inherited from us as parents.
You get a lot of kindness from your dad, who has always been such a good person.
I reckon the humour might come from yours truly — it’s been said that you’re like a mini version of me.
I do see a lot of myself in you although you roll your eyes at me sometimes, and the things that used to make me “cool”, you now just find SO embarrassing.
Bestsy’s father is actor Lee Mead, who Denise is separated fromCredit: Supplied
I know you love me really! A lot of the time it’s just been the two of us and that’s made our bond especially strong.
I treasure the time we spend together, just me and you.
Now you’re getting older we can get quite deep and meaningful, can’t we?
We talk about everything and I hope that never stops. I always want you to feel you can come to me with anything.
At your age, I was often confused, not knowing why I’d get teary, so I’m glad you’re very much aware of all the changes you and your body are going through.
It’s not all hearts and flowers 24/7, of course.
How could it be with both sets of our hormones flying around?
We wouldn’t be normal if we didn’t have the odd ding-dong now and again.
But we’re both very good at saying sorry and recognising when we’re in the wrong.
I don’t always get it right. As parents, we’re all learning on the job, and as much as we try, sometimes we make the wrong call. I hold my hands up to that.
Mind, now that you’ve started to raid my wardrobe, we might be having words!
There are a few hoodies, handbags and pairs of sunglasses that seem to have disappeared off the face of the Earth.
It’s a sign of teenhood approaching that you’ve been asserting more of your independence lately.
You love going to sleep-overs at friends’ houses, which even a year ago you wouldn’t have done.
And when you have your mates over, I’m under strict instructions to stay out of the way.
I know I have to give you the freedom to grow. I probably grew up a lot quicker than you because I was working professionally from a young age.
I lost a bit of my childhood because I wasn’t mixing with a lot of other children, I was on set filming with the grown-ups.
That’s why I’ve always really wanted you to enjoy being a kid — you’ve got plenty of time to grow up, just make the most of being young and silly for now.
I do worry about you, though. The world has changed so much, especially with the rise of social media and it feels like I’ve got my work cut out making sure you stay safe.
“Mum,” you say, “stop worrying about me.”
But I’ll never stop worrying about you. I can’t help that.
I’ve only got you, Betsy, and you’re my world.
Before I sign off, I want to thank you, Betsy.
You have taught me to take my foot off the gas and just enjoy the moment, something I wasn’t always very good at.
I used to be on a bit of a hamster wheel, too scared to jump off, and while I’m still a grafter, since becoming a mum I can see there’s so much more to life.
My best memories are from the times I spend with you.
As you enter this next chapter, I want you to know that you should never feel the need to conform and do what others want you to.
Find the thing in life that you love and follow your passion.
Being a teenager can be tough, but don’t worry about what other people think. Enjoy life, go for it and be happy.
More than anything, just keep being you and you won’t go far wrong.
You make everything better, Betsy Boo and I couldn’t be prouder of the fact you’re mine.
All my love,
Denise describes Betsy as ‘like a mini version of me’Credit: Supplied
Denise said: ‘You have taught me to take my foot off the gas and just enjoy the moment, something I wasn’t always very good at’Credit: Supplied
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