I have a lot of nieces. I have a couple of nephews too, but somewhere on this planet there's a family that's overrun with sons and nephews, wondering if there's a balance being struck somewhere to counter the surplus of head-bonking, monkey-climbing, keyboard-smashing little boys that's defining their future generation.
That would be us.
I had a conversation with my niece yesterday. She still sneaks over to her parents' room on occasion, finding some nook or crawl space where she can settle in undetected for the mere comfort that proximity affords her. She has her own room - it's filled with her stuff, and unmistakably bears her own personal touch - and she understands that she should be sleeping on her own but she does the ninja thing at night whenever, I presume, she gets spooked or lonely. Her parents are trying to address this, which led to this conversation:
Niece: Uncle Shel, I'm getting a hamster!
Niece: Yes, if I sleep in my room for three more weeks, mommy and daddy will get me a hamster.
Me: That's awesome! But after the three weeks, are you going to NOT sleep in your room anymore?
A question which she mulled over for about three seconds before whispering:
Well, they can't return a hamster, right?
Now, I know that children will renege on any agreement you make with them, no matter how sincere they are at the time that the deal was brokered. Kids are kids, an experience is filed away and forgotten in as much time as it takes them to have the next one. It just didn't occur to me that she'd have an answer beyond a simple 'Yes' or 'No', much less one that's reasoned, rational and just a smidgen underhanded.
Lately, I can't help but treat the time I spend with my niece as a peek into the future, especially since Tristan has such a similar disposition. The idea that I'd basically been outsmarted by a seven year old version of my son, insofar as I'd underestimated her ability to project long term, was something to digest. I'd spent years performing due diligence as an uncle, instilling cynicism in my nephews and nieces by answering every question of theirs with a roundabout answer that required dispelling naivete to the point where they pretty much only believe about 20% of what I say, and now I figured I'd get to do the same with Tristan.
As I've learned, the fatal flaw in this plan is - apparently - the assumption of who's actually in need of the reality check.