Babysitting Henley Grace boosts ‘Girl Power’

Sherri Gardner HowellBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk

I live in a world of males. With the exception of daughters-in-law, my family is very male. I have two sons, three grandsons, three nephews and four great-nephews. I am very comfortable playing with and entertaining children of many ages – as long as they are boys.

Babysitting with Henley Grace on Saturday while the rest of her family went to watch the University of Tennessee baseball game was an education in just how out-of-touch my world is when you mix in a little girl.

Henley Grace is my goddaughter Libby’s daughter. She is 4-years-old and absolutely delightful. Just as Libby brought all things girly to my life when she was a child, Henley Grace introduced me to the female side of play.

The first thing that was obvious was that the infamous Howell playroom (it used to be a dining room) was woefully lacking in toys that girls naturally gravitate toward. Henley liked the trains and the Magna-Tiles. She looked for a few minutes at Rock-em-Sock-em Robot game, but decided to rummage through the bin of action figures and superheroes instead. Thank goodness there was a Wonder Woman and Supergirl, plus an honest-to-goodness Barbie. She then pulled a couple of water guns out of another bin since we were going to spend some time at the Splash Pad at McFee Park.  Her eyes lit up when she found the one-and-only baby doll, which had one change of clothes and a little backpack.

Henley Grace at a Colorado Rockies baseball game

The real hit, however, was a children’s make-up kit I had bought as a birthday gift for a friend’s granddaughter then decided it was too young for her. Henley Grace loved it and spent more than 30 minutes putting on eye shadow, lip gloss and blush. She then suggested that it might not be “healthy” for other children to play with the make-up because she put her fingers in it. I said that maybe she should just take it home with her, and she thought that was a good idea.

Understand, please, that Henley Grace is no shrinking violet. First of all, she has three older brothers and a dad who has been tossing her in the air and tumbling with her since she was a toddler. She took a tumble at the Splash Pad and never even slowed down. She can hold her own with anyone, just as her mother did when she maneuvered her childhood in our neighborhood of mostly boys.

But Henley Grace is also a girly girl. That became obvious at bedtime.

Libby had remembered to bring her swimsuit but not her pajamas. My suggestion that she just sleep in the T-shirt she was wearing was met with shock and dismay. “That is NOT pajamas,” she told me. “That’s a shirt, and it matches my skirt. I don’t sleep in my skirts.”

My husband went upstairs and came down with what he thought was a perfect solution: An old soccer jersey that was a couple of sizes too big but would certainly work and be comfortable as a night shirt.

Henley Grace looked at in suspiciously. “Whose shirt is this?” she asked.

Boys or girls, I have learned a thing or two from being a Gigi. “I don’t remember exactly,” I told her, “but we know lots of girls who are great soccer players.”

She put the jersey on, grabbed her make-up kit and snuggled on the couch to watch “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

“I had so much fun tonight, Aunt Sherri,” she said as she drifted off with her head in my lap. “Better than baseball.”

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.


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