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My daughter is 18. That makes me proud and breaks my heart

Two days ago daughter number one celebrated her 18th birthday.

Obviously this has been a shock to the system. More mine than hers, I imagine. For all the obvious - and boring - parental reasons. Weren't we only just changing her nappy/waving her off to school/tearing our hair out that night she went missing only for her to turn out to be sleeping behind the curtain?

I have been thinking about those memories while watching the World Cup. I was watching the football back then too. Euro 96. Football's Coming Home, That Gary McAllister penalty miss. That Gazza goal. The only famous Teddy alive in my lifetime [1].

I had warned J she could not give birth until the football was finished. She didn't listen. She decided to go into labour on the day England were playing Germany in the semi-final. Daughter number one entered the world four minutes after England were leaving the tournament. On penalties.

What I remember is not that day particularly though. Daughter number two's birth was much more memorable, mostly because it happened so quickly [2]. No, what remains was the sense that suddenly I had this new, box-fresh secret. One that I half wanted to tell everyone and half wanted to keep to myself.

The following night - after visiting hour - I went to the cinema and smiled all the way through Mike Leigh's Secrets And Lies. Even the sad bits. Even when Timothy Spall is telling everyone his family are tearing him apart. I may never have been happier in my life than those few hours.

Clearly, it didn't last. Nappies, colic, singing to her at three in the morning to try to get her to go to sleep, telling her to go to her bed at past two in the morning just last night.

We have spent most of the last 18 years shouting at each other. Me telling her to tidy that room. Her telling me that she has nowhere to put her things because I won't buy her any furniture. Me telling her she won't let me buy her any furniture because she doesn't like any of the furniture I suggest and … well, it goes on and on and you have probably got better things to do.

Once upon a time she liked Katie Morag and Barney the dinosaur. Now she likes intelligent hip hop [3] and American sitcoms. I have a picture of her on my computer screen. A recent one. She looks like a young woman. This is an idea that makes me proud and breaks my heart. And then I remember that I became 18 in the summer of 1981. And that's a whole other reason to start crying.

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Football

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