real life

There is such a lesson for parents in this letter....

Bella with her mum



Dear Mum,

Last year was the best year of my life.

As you know, it was the year I turned eighteen. The year I fell in love. The year I rebelled.

The year I smoked a cigarette and went to a nightclub and slept on the beach (well, umm, you know about that now…).

And, of course, I did the HSC.

For heaps of my friends, the HSC came at a really disastrous time in life. It was a year of hell.

But mine was awesome, and I owe it to you.

Thank you Mum, for supporting me through my HSC.


Thank you for encouraging me in my studies.

Thanks for helping me with my chores, for giving me a night off the dishes before my maths exam (okay, before ALL my exams).

Thanks for providing me with a quiet, peaceful study space free from TV blare and brothers.

Thanks for driving me to my exams, and shouting coffee.

But most of all, thanks for letting me do the HSC. Myself.

Remember all those stories we heard about, where the HSC was chaos? About the kids who didn’t sleep for months and mothers who stopped exercising, socializing or working for the year to, umm, help their kids study?

Mum, thanks for understanding that it was my HSC, not yours.

Yeah you read through some of my creative stories, and brainstormed with me about my major work.

But you didn’t put your whole life on hold for my final year of school.

You didn’t hover, like a helicopter, putting on the pressure. Encouraging (ahem, distracting) me with cookies and tea, the syllabus outcomes and assessment dates in hand.

You didn’t indulge my tantrums, tears and tiredness.


Instead you reminded me, gently, that I chose to want an ATAR of 95+. And you lovingly explained that doing the HSC was NOT an excuse for bad behavior.

So I stopped complaining and studied Ted Hughes so I would ace the next paper. We were a great little team!

I also want to thank you for letting me have a boyfriend.

Thanks for realizing (unlike my friend’s mum) that seeing a guy in secret is MUCH more time consuming than a sleepover a couple of times a week.

“Thanks for understanding it was my HSC, not yours.”

And my boyfriend rocked.

Thank you for not caving in to the pressure of all your friends who judged you for not staying by my desk-side instead of going to work. Because honestly, WTF?

Thanks for not being like your poor friend, who went crazy during her son’s HSC. Remember how she got stress migraines and took her son to a psychiatrist because he had insomnia for two years!? Maybe they thought it was worth it when he got 99.999999…

Thanks for realizing that an ATAR is just a number. And telling me so.  For reminding me that getting 99 wouldn’t make me a better person, and getting an asterisk wouldn’t make me a worse one. You said it would just give me different options.

Thank you for holding my hand when the results came out. And squeezing it when you saw that 97.65 ATAR.

You didn’t offer to buy me a car or pay for schoolies. You just looked at me, your eyes glistening with pride and gentle tears and said ‘Bella, that ATAR is all yours. You should be so proud of your hard work ’.

And I was.

Mum, I owe you one. I owe you a thousand.

Not because you did it for me, but because you let me learn how to do it myself.

And that was the greatest gift of all.

Love always,


Bella Westaway is a 19 year old soon-to-be journalism student who spent this year travelling Europe and wishing she were home. You can check out her blog here.