BY LINDSEY STAPLES, TEACHER, HERITAGE HOUSE CHILDCARE AND LEARNING CENTER
In a society with a foundation rooted in patriarchal influence and tradition, we cannot deny the immeasurable power women possess, radiate, and utilize in maintaining, guiding, and developing the growth and evolution of humanity’s greatest foundation, the family. I do believe in and support the significance of the male figure, the father, grandfather, uncle, brother, or other male role model within a family structure, and by no means am I attempting to dismiss or undervalue the role of men within the family. However, as a woman, I am slightly, or perhaps greatly, bias when it comes to the magnitude of a woman’s worth, especially with the enchanting magic of mothers.
Although I am not yet a mother myself, I am very blessed to be surrounded by three strong-willed and charismatic, beautiful mothers: my own mother, Lisa; my older sister, Renee; and my younger sister, Rachel. These three women continue to extend such a positive influence while raising their daughters and mentoring me on the challenges and blessings of motherhood. It is through them that I am discovering a greater appreciation for women, especially mothers.
Over three years ago, we welcomed Natalya Carys into our family. For the first time, my sister, Renee, became a mother, my parents became grandparents, and I became an aunt. My sister has been very fortunate to work from home since Natalya was born. With the ability to be there for every moment of her daughter’s life, Renee has begun to raise an intelligent, well-mannered, extremely curious and loveable little girl.
Meet my niece, Tallie, as we call her, a petite little three-year-old with a tiny voice and big blue eyes. She reminds me so much of myself. Much like me (her mommy and all the Staples women), she has this stubborn independence. She never lets her small size or her mere three years of life experience stop her from reaching for things beyond herself. “I can do it!”, she protests if you try to help her get dressed for preschool or pick up the kernels of corn that never stay on the spoon or fork quite right. As she grows, Tallie already foresees the expansion of her independence. “When I get bigger,” she says, “you can sit in the backseat, Mama, and I’ll drive and chew gum.” Her cleverness and intelligence goes beyond mastering the preschool basics. Tallie does not simply imitate adult behavior and language. She is able to absorb everything in her environment and reflect it back in the correct context. Renee told me that after Tallie finished drinking from a McDonald’s plastic milk jug, she turned to her grandmother and said, “I’m done, do you recycle?” Already, her age is not giving her credit for the power she possesses. And although she has her timid moments when she clings to the safety of her mommy’s leg with the tip of her index finger held between her thin pink lips, there is one distinct difference between my niece and me . . . she is fearless. Ever since Tallie was a baby, she has found a thrill in being scared. She was not too impressed with the simple game of peek-a-boo. She encouraged us with her contagious giggles to jump at her while screaming boo. After a sudden jolt from her whole body and a quick widening of her eyes, endless giggles would pour from her throat until she became silent waiting for more.
As she grows through her toddler years, Tallie’s curiosity has empowered her fearlessness. “Aunt Ninny! Aunt Ninny! (my nickname that has stuck ever since she was learning to say my name) I tried sushi, Aunt Ninny!” I crinkle my nose, stick out my tongue and think to myself, brave girl . . . I have never tried it myself. She has a fascination with fast cars and rollercoasters, with slimy bugs and wild animals, with foreign foods and playing rough sports. She knows all the Disney princesses, wears pink dresses and shoes with heels. She rolls in the grass and plays in the dirt. She likes to color rainbows and butterflies and make crazy creations with play dough. She wants to swim in the deep end without any floaties, and she’s a fabulous singer—not just a singer, a rock star singer. With her long golden hair flowing down her back, Tallie is a princess by day and a rock star by night. Playing Rock Band becomes a family affair with Daddy on the drums, Mommy on guitar, and Tallie center stage with a black microphone clenched between her two tiny hands. When she’s rocking out to Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” she reminds me of Animal from The Muppets, her beautiful hair and her whole spirit flying wild and free. Did I mention Tallie’s mommy rocked out at a Nine Inch Nails concert when she was pregnant?
It is because of Natalya’s mother, my sister, Renee, that Tallie is not afraid to be herself and discover who she can become. Renee simultaneously gives her tender guidance and precious space enabling Tallie to define her own individuality within a realm of protection and love.
Although Natalya is my first niece, perhaps causing me to have a bit of favoritism towards her, I would also like to introduce my second and equally beautiful niece and her strong-willed mother. However readers, you’ll have to wait for the May edition of PG Magazine, and with pleasure, I will proudly share all I am learning from baby Alexa. Trust me, at just about seven months old, she already has quite a story unraveling.
Lindsey Staples, a teacher’s assistant for the UPK program at Heritage House Childcare and Learning Center, earned a B.A. degree in English/Creative Writing from Keuka College in May of 2009.