While watching Avatar (which I will refrain from ranting about) I thought it would be pretty cool to have a tail. And I got my wish.

My tail is short, three years old and has a mop of curly hair.

It’s my niece La.

The first evening I met her, I asked her if she wanted to colour and from then on, we were set, thereby proving that the way to a little girl’s heart is through her crayons.

Helps if you’re mentally aged four and love to colour too, except you’re too embarrassed to do it yourself as a grown-up.

Colouring with my niece is interesting because she is obsessed with green. She’ll watch me pick different shades and even advise me on what to put where but will only pick shades of green herself. It’s a big vote in your favour if she hands you the green. I’m kind of kicked that I got passed the green crayon whenever I wanted it.

The second evening when I came home from work La was strangely coy. My sister-in-law then told me that while giving her a bath, she had been saying that she didn’t want me to come home. Sil was mystified until she spotted my soap broken on the floor. So she asked La if she was scared I would shout at her and she meekly said yes. Then unfortunately later she knocked over a piggy bank in my showcase and it broke. Actually, it was already broken but everyone told her I would be angry. So she was scared.

Anyway, I asked her if she wanted to colour and that was that.

She’s been my tail ever since. She wants to sleep with me, go to the loo with me and even bathe with me. If I change my clothes she wants to change too. If I go to pee, she wants to pee too.

I’ve always wondered how I would cope with cleaning up poo and pee when I have a child. Now I know. You are faced with the child and her crappy underwear and you just do it. Helps that kids are completely matter of fact and unselfconscious about this stuff.

It’s funny to have a pint-sized fan but for someone who claims not to like kids, I tend to attract them like the Pied Piper. Maybe it’s because I don’t patronize them. I can fall into pretend games and fantasy very easily. I don’t care for practiced kisses and greetings but I generally get them spontaneously after a while anyway.

The way I deal with La and my in-laws shows up the difference between us. The Ills are keen on La giving the correct answers to their questions and colouring or doing puzzles the right way. I’m ok with girls that have green hair, puzzles that look like a blob and explanations that aren’t entirely logical. I think it displays imagination and creativity.

For example, everyone was most concerned that La wouldn’t colour in the lines. Finally, I just snapped and told them to leave her alone. It was pointed out to me that she needed to learn how to do it properly sometime. Which is true. But she’s only three. In some countries, kids aren’t even allowed to hold a crayon till 5. There’s time enough for her to learn the rules. As long as she’s not being a pest, how does it matter where her imagination takes her?

La’s affection for me has also raised my worth in the parent-in-law’s opinion. Their grandchild is their pride and joy and if she’s given me the vote of confidence, there must be something to me.

I still wonder though if I can sustain this for the 12 years or so in which children are most dependent on their own parents. It’s one thing being the fun aunt. But being a parent? That’s a whole different ballgame.

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