I recently had a rather enlightening conversation with my 9-year-old niece that refreshingly permitted each of us to be intimately honest about our versions of life’s expectations from the perspective of youthful ideals and mature resolution.
Like most little girls with an active imagination that creates vibrant visuals of what makes daydreaming a gratifying sport, my talkative niece has reached the precious phase in her life, that allows her to contemplate an exciting future ahead, based on the takeaways from shifting and steady environments.
When we last hung out, she proudly recognized her growth spurt, and I pointed out how this new year would be her official entry into the age bracket of double-digits, and I asked her what she thought about that.
Our light-hearted conversation swiftly turned into a Q & A session, with my niece demanding to know why I don’t have a husband and kids. She also brought up the fact that I was in my forties, which is obviously over-the-hill for an inquisitive 9-year-old. She noted that my younger brother, her doting father, has managed to garner a family of his own. Her presentation hinted that there might be something amiss.
This isn’t the first time we’ve casually discussed boys, dating and the rite of passage that most young girls assume will be their reality, as it was for their mothers before them. But this time, my niece’s stance was a lot more forceful, almost as if she had overheard grown ups analyzing my current state-of-affairs through critical lenses laced with pity.
My rushed response to the unexpected inquiry that put me on the spot in front of my brother and visiting uncle, who were both pretending to be immersed in their phones and texting was a lot more composed and unapologetically direct.
A decade ago, if I had been publicly charged with defending my honor as a “rebellious” woman who isn’t following the blueprint of a respectable existence that features a loving husband and adorable kiddies for added measure, I wouldn’t have stoically handled myself without exposing cracks of vulnerability and defeat.
As a youngish woman on the cusp of turning the dreaded Big 4–0, you can’t help but be reflective about the past and somewhat apprehensive about the uncertainty of a future, that’s heading in a direction that may not provide the blessings you took for granted, back when you were fertile and carefree, and not at all suspicious of life’s betrayals.
Looking back, those were in many ways the worst of times.
When you are able to weather that storm and triumphantly emerge with added wisdom and the staunch defiance to protect your peace and mental health, you are miraculously immune to the disapproving gazes and entitled gossipers, who have childishly branded your independence, according to outdated norms.
My young niece was visibly taken aback when I made assurances that her “old maid” of an aunt is quite content with the controversial status of being without a husband and child, because life can be fully enjoyable, regardless of those missing pieces.
My infectious comfortability unnerved the impressionable youngster, and pushed her to insist that she will most definitely not follow in my footsteps, and will indeed fulfill her desires of having a husband and kids.
I lovingly cheered her on, mostly out of duty to support the delicate dreams of a little girl who deserves to have them, just like I did when I was her age.
Of course when I was a 9-year-old girl, I became the victim of a childhood trauma that most certainly affected my development in specific ways that probably made it impossible for me to realize the goal of being a wife and mother.
If you don’t get the professional help you need at the time it matters the most, it’s pretty much guaranteed that those demons will be profoundly disruptive all through adulthood, accumulating wasted years that nobody but the sufferer can makes sense of.
My niece represents the pureness and sweet innocence that we’re all assigned before the unfortunate stripping that occurs prematurely to the detriment of unformed dispositions that aren’t equipped to mentally process what’s above elementary comprehension.
Like all little girls in the prime of their blissful naivety that controls accompanying narratives, my niece is fiercely loyal to what she envisions for the years ahead, and just because her weird aunt’s journey drastically deviates from those expectations, doesn’t mean we both can’t champion the dreams that have a very good chance of coming true.
And who knows, maybe one day, when she’s older and experienced in the study of life with the acknowledgment of how child-like reflexes can’t save us from the shock of young adulthood, and the even more radical reveals with each passing decade, my grown-up niece will recall those poignant moments and decode the riddles she wasn’t old enough to activate.
As for me, it was important for the little girl to witness her aunt’s unwavering endorsement of a healthy life in progress, that doesn’t have to mimic what society so readily infuses in the heads of children, as the indisputable imagery of what’s admissible in the court of public opinion.
Anything outside that bubble of perfection is deemed a failure, and the rejects should be apologetic and ready for the scrutiny and judgments that won’t end until that issue is fixed.
My dreams have changed since childhood, and it’s really the simple pursuit of much-needed healing and spiritual wealth that will hopefully compensate for the cruelty of waiting too long for that nourishment.
For now, I’m just pleased to help nurture the hopes and dreams of my niece, and little girls like her, who absolutely deserve those privileges, while they also learn to show that same compassion to the ones they love, even if they don’t understand.