“Do you want to go for a walk?” she asks, and I’m glad she does, because there are fewer things I enjoy more than spending time with her.
She’s twelve. And she’s my oldest niece. And she’s so different from me – so well-adjusted and bright and sweet – and kind of the same – so sensitive and we both crack ourselves up.
I truly adore her.
So I don my tennis shoes and some mosquito repellent, and a-walking we go.
And we talk about boys. (You did not hear it from me.) Mostly, she wanted to hear about my boyfriends. She wanted to know when I had my first kiss and if I loved them and why they didn’t work out.
And as I was talking about the guy I briefly dated earlier this year, I was surprised she already knew the details of why we didn’t work out. Details I wouldn’t have shared with her because I don’t want to see her ever choose this kind of guy just because she saw me do it, you know? My sister-in-law had apparently showed her this guy’s picture, so my niece says to me, “Yeah, he looked too laid back for you anyway.” At which I could only shrug and agree.
Well, I came back from vacation, and almost immediately, another guy started pursuing me, and let me tell you, it’s like I never learn! I was ready to buy everything he was peddling. Ready to take it all, just because it was being offered. Like I always do.
Only I know this guy is bad, bad, bad for me. I’ve observed firsthand how he treats women, and what? I think he’s going to be different with me? Like I have some mysterious and magical quality that’s going to mysteriously and magically make him shape up? I’ll be honest, that’s exactly what I was thinking.
Just like that, I forgot. I forgot my twelve-year-old niece, and the six other nieces coming behind her. I forgot the young girls I teach at church. I forgot my younger sister. I forgot that they’re watching and listening to what I do and say, even if I don’t realize it. I forgot that they will base what they accept in relationships based on what they see and hear me accept in my relationships.
If I accept not being a priority in a guy’s life, they will, too.
If I accept being disrespected by a guy physically, emotionally, or spiritually, they will, too.
If I accept immaturity and constantly excuse and cover for a guy’s behavior around others, they will, too.
If I tell them they are beautiful and worthy of being cared for, respected, and adored, then I have to surround myself with people who nurture, respect, and adore me.
If I tell them they are sacred, I have to be incredibly careful to whom I give my time, energy, talents, and heart.
If I tell them to wait for a man who matches their time, energy, talents, and heart with his own – for a man who leaves no doubt where his heart is, I have to do the same.
Because I should be setting the example here. Because they’re watching and listening, and in a few short years, they’re going to be emulating.