My 3 year old niece didn’t care that I had trouble fitting into a tiny enclosure. Only my torso could fit as my legs dangled out onto the stairs. Sasha could almost fully stand in there, but even she kept hitting her head as the space was so tiny.
Aside from my occasional concerns when she did bump her head with the top of the “cave,” I was in a state of bliss, completely in the moment. I felt 10 years younger, spending time with my adorable niece who didn’t cast any judgment, and saw me as kin, as someone who she felt was safe to share vulnerable moments.
She loves to pull her “gi” (in Sasha lingo that would mean “blanket”) up over her head and hide. Sasha quickly noticed I didn’t have a “gi,” so she told me: “Stay in the cave Gu Gu (Chinese for auntie)….I’ll bring you a gi.”
I rolled onto my side to ease the discomfort of being coiled in an awkward position, and Sasha, despite being downstairs, saw me and said: “Gu Gu, I said stay in the cave…..I’ll be back.” She killed me.
When our little girl cave was fully supplied with stuffed animals and blankets, we resumed hiding. It was so cozy in there, and she rested her head on top of my tummy.
I completely lost track of time, and we were complete equals, despite our age difference. We were just 2 girls playing, and it was so pleasant I even forgot about the discomfort of being forced into the shape of a pretzel.
Then Sasha did something that really touched me.
She went into massive detail about how her preschool friend, Rebecca, wasn’t attending school with her anymore.
“She hurt her lip, and bleeding, and I got her band aid, and I don’t see her in school,” said Sasha.
She paused for a bit….and then said: “And I miss her,” with droopy eyes and a nostalgically fond look.
She was completely vulnerable, and just laid out her feelings. I understand kids are much less restricted than we are, and show their feelings openly. But for me, I’ve had to work hard to reconnect with myself throughout the years, and learn to be vulnerable again.
And I had the privilege to sit in the dark with her (quite literally), and show her my empathy. That took vulnerability on my part, and I was happy with how I prompted and handled myself.
The safe space Sasha felt was partly due to being in the cave, but I could tell she felt comfortable with me to share something personal and something that emotional for her.
I had to be in a good space, a gentle and vulnerable space in order for that to happen.
We hugged a while after.
“Awwww, it’s okay,” I said to Sasha. “You’ll see her again. Maybe Mommy and Daddy can set up a play-date for you to see Rebecca.”
She lit up, and everything was A-okay again.
The time spent in Sasha’s cave was the best part of my weekend, by far.
Vulnerability, empathy, sitting in the dark cave and sharing and feeling and being there with her…..
And I got a glimpse of my lost girlhood, a girlhood I never experienced. I got to feel like I was a kid again, in the proper gender, with my preferential gender appropriate stuffed animals, toys, and friend of choice.
What a gift….to share a few precious moments with my niece Sasha in our little girls club.