I love how kids will say whatever is on their mind, ever so innocently…
Last month I had the pleasure of visiting my brother and my 6-year-old twin nieces. At 6 years old, they are always a bundle of vibrant energy, fun… and unexpected surprises. One day, while helping the girls with their morning routine, one of the girls looked at me and said, “Aunt Jeannie, how come you don’t have a baby?”
In an instant my mind raced with all of the possible responses, searching for the most appropriate one for their innocent ears. I replied, “Well, because I haven’t yet met the right man to marry.” I can’t quite remember exactly how the conversation ensued from there, but I believe their next question was something to the effect of why I didn’t have a boyfriend. In this moment frozen in time, I was immediately reminded of so many of their kids’ movies, where the princess has to be saved by the prince, where finding her true love is always the objective, where getting married and riding off into the sunset is always the outcome; and I realized how many societal messages we are bombarded with from the time we are small children. And it occurred to me that I was being granted a very powerful teaching moment.
I then went on to explain to the girls that I didn’t have a boyfriend, and that it is ok to not have a boyfriend, that it is ok to be single. I think this was the first time that they came to understand the word “single.” I explained to them that I choose to be single because I hadn’t yet met the right man to date, and that I will very happily remain single until I do find the right match. And then they so nicely informed me, “But Aunt Jeannie, you are the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend.” Oh bless their little innocent hearts.
I then proceeded to list for them all of daddy’s friends who are “single,” the “aunts” and “uncles” who fill their lives on a regular basis, people about whom it never occurred to them to wonder their relationship status, or what that even means. After finishing the laundry list of singletons that surround their lives, I then said what I think was the most important lesson I could teach them, “We don’t have to get married. We can choose to get married or we can choose to be single. We can be anything we want in this life. But the most important thing is to be happy. I am single and I am very happy.”
As the day went on, I reflected on what a powerful moment this was for me with my nieces, and what an opportunity I have to be a positive influence in their lives: a role model to show them that they can do and be anything that they want in this life, that they do not have to settle for anything less than what they deserve, and that they do not have to follow the societal blue-print. I hope to teach them, by example, that they can forge their own paths, that they can take their own risks, that they can be bold, strong and brave, and that they can find their own life’s purpose on this Earth.
I then began to think about all of the people I see around me who are in unhappy relationships: people who are stuck in the societal mold and are scared to break out of it, people who are terrified to be alone. And I thought about the happy couples who are few and far between: those couples that you just look at and say “Yes! Those two are so in love!,” the couples who just exude peace and happiness, and who truly complement one another like yin and yang. And I was reminded once again that one should never settle for less than that and of how much better it is to be happily single than to be unhappily married or in a relationship with the wrong person.
I thought about all of my “happily single” friends, the empowered and independent men and women who have had so many adventures and who have done so many incredible things with their careers and their lives. And I hoped for my nieces that they would never end up in the situation of an unhappy relationship, that they would be brave enough to be alone and strong enough to wait for the right man, or if they preferred, that they would choose to be “happily single.”
Later on in the week, out of the blue, one of my nieces stood up proudly and declared, “When I grow up, I want to be single!” I smiled from ear to ear as I chucked to myself. I knew that I had planted a good seed: a seed of an independent, empowered woman who doesn’t have to be anything that society dictates; a seed of an innocent girl who will grow up to be a strong and beautiful woman who can choose to lead any kind of life that she wants.