My nieces and nephews all call me Tietie (for my foreign audience, it is an Afrikaans slang word for big sister). According to my mother, the moniker originated when my younger sister was born…she is four years my junior and apparently I used to run away from my preschool to come and play with her, and refer to her as “Tietie’s baby”.
Our first grandchild was born 10 months after my baby sister, and the babies just kept coming at regular intervals after that. Since then the name just stuck.
I’ve basically been around babies and children my whole life. One of my talents is that I have a certain way with them. And I don’t just mean our family children. Any child. I’ve been told it’s because I have a funny face, because I have an energy that kids like, and it’s because they can sense goodness. Whatever the reason, I make friends easier with a toddler than I do with adults.
Twenty months ago, I became a great-aunt. One of my married nephews and his wife had a son, the first great grandchild of our family. He’s such a little replica of his father, but he was only a few months old when we went into Lockdown, so he didn’t see any of us much. The effect of that I suppose is that it takes him a while to warm up to people.
A few months ago, said nephew applied to work abroad… And about 2 weeks ago, he was granted his work visa, and is scheduled to leave today. Last week, he and his little family came to have supper with us, and it was the first time I spent any real time with my great nephew. An hour was all it took for me and him to become best friends. This morning, I was an hour late for work because he wanted to play (we went around to greet my nephew before his departure).
The way children quickly become comfortable with me never fails to amaze me. And it has been this way since I can remember, and sometimes with the most difficult children. Just a couple of minutes of focused attention, and I have a new friend.
I can’t begin to describe how it makes me feel to hear him, or any of the smallies of our family, say Tietie in their unique ways…to feel them grab, squeeze and pull my fingers because they want to play…or to feel their hugs, see their smiles or hear their laughter knowing that I was the reason for it.
I’ve been asked so many times why I don’t have a different job. I always say that I think I was destined to work with kids, or in close proximity to them.
The truth is…as much as kids love me, I love them even more. Children have the best energy, and their honesty and simplicity is a balm for me in a world that tends to complicate everything.