Sorting Hats and Fairy Crowns by Ren Martinez

My sister has officially announced (on Facebook, of course) that she is going to be a mother come August. Already, the congratulations have started pouring in, and I’m sure her feed is popping with notifications. My family was told in December, and it came with exactly what I expected (my mother’s tears, my father’s denial of his tears, and my sisters already fighting about what to name the cashew).

I’m going to be a tía come August and I’m slightly terrified at the prospect.

I’m not trying to devalue my sister and her husband, because I’m sure they are also terrified and rightly so. Somehow, this cashew is going to transform into a fully fledged human being that they are responsible for; it’s mind-boggling to think about. But, as a tía, I have some of my own responsibilities when it comes to Pistachio.

1. Expose them to as much literature as possible. I’ll read Harry Potter and The Giver and The Ordinary Princess over Skype until we have our own secret language, until they can sort us into our proper houses and dream of running away to live with dragons. We’ll discuss the themes of Brave New World and why Romeo and Juliet should never be someone’s ideal love story.

2. Provide them with what they want. I don’t mean to spoil them (though I probably will, because I don’t have to take the little walnut home), but if my nephew wants a fairy princess crown, I’ll totally buy him a fairy princess crown. If my niece wants to visit the reptile house at the zoo and scoffs at the zebras and marmosets, we’ll have an intense discussion on if we prefer anacondas to crocodiles. If they want to listen to The Clash and question God, I’ll put on London Calling and listen to their doubts without ever questioning them.

3. Become a sanctuary. If they’re too freaked out to talk to their parents about sex, I will be happy to sit them down and lay out the facts, condoms and all. When they become mired in self-doubt and self-loathing, I’ll roll up my sleeves to show the tattooed semi colon on my wrist, the inked representation of my own struggle with suicide, where a sentence could have ended but didn’t.

4. Open their eyes. Show them how the world is messy and bitter and ugly, but also wondrous and beautiful and inspiring. Take them to volunteer at homeless shelters, help them write letters to their congressmen, support them when they start the first GSA at their school. Allow them their tears and arm them with knowledge; remind them that courage cannot exist without fear.

I still have six months to prepare, to wonder about what to do with a baby (can they fist bump?), and sort out my own weird emotions that a cashew will someday become a child that will someday become an adult. All I can hope is that I can keep my eyes wide, my mind open, and my hand ready to take theirs in mine.

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