February, my least favorite month–or at least it was until this year. February is the month of love, or so people think it is because of Valentine’s Day. Annually, we watch as women swoon over candy and roses; and their suitors break their banks in hopes of a truly romantic evening. For me, however, it is my birth month. With me being born a mere two days before the holiday, I have often found myself in a losing a competition for my family and friends’ time and attention. Then, when in May, my brother’s fiancee announced she was pregnant; I knew yet again my special day would take yet another backseat…
Aairess (pronounced “heiress) Nyari Victoria McCurdy-Fanning (a mouthful huh?) was born on the late afternoon of February 3, 2014. It is rare girls are born into my family. In fact, it had been twenty-five years since my youngest sister, the last girl, was born into the family. Naturally, she was the source of quite a celebration. My brother and I, at best are fierce rivals, many liken us to Batman and The Joker. So, when it came time for me to meet my new niece for the first time I was not too thrilled. I entered the hallowed halls of the hospital with the intent of doing my uncle and brotherly duties and then abruptly departing, knowing I had taken the higher road.
Well that was the plan until I held Aairess for the first time; and she opened her eyes and smiled–her first smile! Whatever permafrost the happenings of life coated around my heart began to thaw. Sure, I kept my composure, but it was indeed love at first sight. The weeks and months passed and as my brother and his fiancee hustled to make ends meet, Aairess spent more and more time with my parents and I. Despite my attempts to remain the cold, elusive, disciplinarian uncle; I found it hard to ignore her cries, coos, and hugs when I entered the room. Then, when she finally began to walk I enjoyed being run to after a long day of work. It made my whole day and any problems endured worthwhile. She was my niece and I, aptly dubbed by my parents, became “Uncky Mike.”
As her first Christmas approached I found myself wondering what should I get a ten month old little girl. At her age, a cardboard box would actually be the perfect gift. Still, I had to get my new found love something special. As I walked the Girls’ Toys sections of Toys R Us, Target, and Wal-Mart I found myself vastly disappointed. Every doll was either a princess, solely Caucasian, or had something to do with making a girl something she was not. In general there was lots of pink and everything was just “too girly.” As I examined the toys, I thought about a quote I once read that said (paraphrasing) children are like blank canvases and every stroke, or lesson, you teach them shapes them into who they will ultimately become. As I looked around I could tell I did not want my niece to become some BRAT monster or Barbie; and that the odds of her becoming an actual princess are astronomical.
My brain began to buzz as I strolled through the Boys’ Toys section. Who says she only can have what is designed for girls, or women, for that matter? When did we as a society decide that as a female she has to be taught from birth to cook, dress up, marry rich, and to always be ultra-pretty. We never teach this nonsense to our boys and instead bombard them with cars, trucks, toy weapons, and superheroes–all things that scream of power and dominance. These devices and characters are not soft and dainty, they are trailblazers teaching young boys, and later men, to reshape the world to their convenience. That’s what I want my niece to be…a trailblazer. A strong woman who sets the standard with her own set of rules. Aairess and every little girl in the world must be taught they can have anything, any man, anywhere can and that it is okay not to settle for anything less. Thus, underneath my Christmas tree is a Tonka Truck, wrapped with her initials on the packaging.
A lot of people may disagree with me and say that Tonka Truck will not change anything, but they would totally miss my point. The truck is a symbol and a blessing from a man to a woman saying, “Hey it’s okay to be all that you truly can…” Merry Christmas Aairess!