There was a time when I led my classmates in projects, spoke up about stuff I didn’t like, and told everyone I was the boss. For instance, at 4, I asked my father to play bank and told him he could be the teller, but I was the president. But ever since I finished college, I kind of feel like I’ve been silenced. I try to make my demands, but there is no one around to listen. When someone is around, I back off. Sometimes, I even feel as though I am a carpet for others to use for feet wiping and balance. I want to be fierce, but I don’t want to lose any work or piss off any P.T.A. parents or come off as difficult. What happened to the little girl with the big voice? She could come in handy right about now.
Lucky for me, my 3-year-old niece is reminding me of who I once was. We recently vacationed together at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. And when a Disney bus stopped and it was time for us to get off, she exclaimed to a crowd of strangers, “Make room for the princess.” Needless to write, she was talking about herself. And when we ate at Via Napoli in EPCOT, she insisted I order her the adult-sized gelato frizzante, even though her kid’s meal came with a little ice cream sundae. When my gelato frizzante arrived, she grabbed it and said, “Thanks, Zia. This is what I ordered. Baby brother can have that other ice cream.” I loved her chutzpah, her pluck, the way she grabbed that gelato right out of my hands.
Throughout the trip, my mother was making comparisons between my niece and me and my son and my brother. Frankly, it is as though karma is biting us in the butt. We had a seriously bad case of sibling rivalry that only just recently died and now we’re raising each other. Go figure. Truly, my niece is perfectly suited to the Little Miss Bossy book my mother gave to me as a child. We’re kindred spirits. The only problem is that I was like that when I was a kid. Somewhere along the way, I lost that audaciousness. I don’t speak up nearly enough. I let other people tell me what to do – often. And I put up with stuff in my life that other people would never tolerate.
So, I find myself seeking the 3-year-old inside me, who would have told Nonno that he didn’t know how to make a nativity scene without me or would have grabbed that gelato frizzante without thinking twice. I’m not looking to be arrogant or bossy, and that’s not really what my niece is doing either. It’s about strength and confidence that far too many women lose along the way. I pray long and hard that my niece never loses that power, that belief that she is a princess for whom others need to get out of the way, that she deserves the gelato frizzante she ordered and more.