my four year old niece is the most incongruous and gorgeous little person on the face of the planet, which means you love her before you even know what’s going on. Her fey little hands just reach inside your chest and pluck your heart right out to put in her nest beside the speckled eggs and bits of string she keeps there.
The same qualities that make you love her fiercely also make her the most impossible person on the face of the planet.
Since me and special k got back to Aus last year I’ve been favourite auntie of the year. Hell, of the decade.
Until a couple of months ago.
The new way of things culminated tonight in her saying “I only want to be looked after by people I love,” and proceeding to name everyone in the room but me.
And God, on paper (screen) that looks so inconsequential. It’s so transparent that she’s four. She’s irrational and there’s nothing to stop her from expressing her feelings. And kids wouldn’t know what they’re really feeling bad about if it used up all their lego to build a boat/shark/batmobile, right?
Unfortunately, I am also an irrational being, and one of those adults who can’t help taking it personally despite all logic. For the first few moments after she’s spat it out, anyway.
For those moments she’s not four, she’s just another person. In that moment I want to never, ever look after her again.
I think this is what it’s about: After her mother and father I’m the person who looks after her and her brother the most. But it doesn’t make sense to her that I – who am most definitely not her mother – also get to be strict with her and set boundaries and get her in trouble. Only Mum is the ultimate controller of her universe. So she needs to test me and test me and test me again.
And the worst part is that I know as long as I go into the situation fully in control it will all be fine. She will push, I’ll show her the boundaries and then she can relax, because one of us knows what’s going on. If she looks at me and sees her confusion mirrored there, hey, all hell might just break loose.