I’ve been around babies and toddlers my whole life and while some of them have redeeming qualities, I end up feeling more awkward around most of them than I do playful or maternal. I love my best friend’s two girls and am so honored to see them grow and be a part of their lives for past 10 years. I am their honorary “Tía”, which is aunt in Spanish. Babysitting them and being around them has given me practice in being an aunt that I hope will make me a pro with my biological niece by the time she hits all of her formative stages.
The title of Tía holds a lot of weight for me; it is sacred and in my opinion, one of the biggest compliments you can ever bestow on someone. My Tía Yolie is one of my favorite people on the planet. I have many other aunts on both sides of my family; but only she holds the title of Tía. She has always been a warm presence in my life with nothing but unconditional love for me. She absolutely spoils me and everyone in my family at Christmas and lavishes gifts on us that are thoughtful, colorful, fun, and practical. She never hesitates to tell me that she loves me “just because”. She has one of the best laughs on the planet and keeps my mother company when she is feeling lonely and in need of a partner-in-crime. My mom and her call each other “shadow” as a show of constant, unyielding support for one another. I hope that I can be that for my wonderful sister-in-law, with whom I am very close. My Tía Yolie and my mom and my sister-in-law have had their share of hardships, but they know that some of the best remedies for hardship lie in laughter and finding a support network of your own making within your family.
My niece just turned 4 years old this past year and I have to say that we had a total blast with each other. She has become an extremely independent, hilarious, imaginative, intelligent, artistic little girl. For example, one of my favorite memories from this year was when I kept calling her “doll”, like I do with the people I love. She said, “I’m not a doll.” Me: “Of course you’re a little girl, but it’s called a term of endearment like sweet pie or honey or mon petit chou (my little cabbage in French).” She thought for a moment and said, “I want to be called Little Pie.” Me: “And what will my name be?” Her: “Smiley Face”. We spent the rest of the time whispering to each other like we had a secret language and we played nonsensical games like spooky vampire sisters or nesting girl tigers. On her birthday, I looked her in the eyes and said, “You are one of my favorite people ever. I love you so much.” She looked right back and said, “I love you, too, Tía Anita”. It’s possible that my heart exploded.
From that moment on, I vowed to take my sacred duties as a Tía seriously and they are as follows:
1. Love my niece unconditionally, everyday, for the rest of her life.
2. Spoil her every chance I get with thoughtful, colorful, fun, and practical gifts.
3. Make her birthday and Christmas and every holiday I get to spend with her memorable and beautiful.
4. Make her laugh and encourage her inner comic.
5. Teach her about adventure and bravery and be there for her if she’s afraid or needs to be dusted off from a fall.
6. Live my life as an example of an independent, intelligent, healthy, creative, and successful woman.
7. Give her a different, but respectful perspective from her parents. (I can’t wait until she’s a teenager!)
8. Provide a safe haven and understanding sounding board for her thoughts, dreams, and fears.
9. Add to the inner circle of care she has around her within the family.
10. Continue my duties as the official family “book pusher” by continuing to widen her world with self-discovery and world traveling through the power of books.
I hope this inspires you to reach out to a young-in in your life and give yourself an opportunity to mentor and foster this kind of special relationship. Your heart will thank you for it.