Today is my niece’s birthday. She is eight-years-old and, in my opinion, absolutely sassy.

Last year, we celebrated her birthday in style. I booked a corner suite at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago that overlooked North Michigan Avenue. We held a surprise party at the American Girl Store, and then we went shopping for a doll. On top of that, we pierced the dolly’s ears because my niece isn’t allowed to have her ears pierced until she’s 16.

It was a huge day.

My niece lives in a regular, working-class home. She doesn’t want for anything in life, but it’s not as if hotels and shopping weekends are normal for this kid. Or most kids. That kind of life just happens on TV.

So, we got into our suite, and she said some funny things.

“I’ve never been this high up.”

Most people have never been more than 11 stories off the ground, so that’s fair.

“Is this all there is?”

I almost choked when she said it, but then I realized she was confused. She asked me, “Auntie Laurie, is this a hotel or a house?”

She couldn’t find the kitchen. That’s when I told her that room service is the kitchen. Let’s try it, shall we?

We had such a fabulous trip. We went to H&M and bought a tiara and some tights for her fancy birthday girl dress. Her eyes were like saucers, and she didn’t want to leave the store.

After H&M and the American Girl adventure, we saw all the important tourist attractions in Chicago and then went to Target. I promised her one toy, but she couldn’t find anything to buy. That’s when I saw the paradox of choice in full effect.

We were looking at Shopkins, which makes no sense to me but whatever, and some gramma said to me, “In my house, we don’t allow Shopkins.”

I said, “Lady, she’s not my kid. She can have whatever the hell she wants.”

My niece and I were rolling. Who is this bossy lady trying to tell us what to do? What did she just say to us? Obviously, she doesn’t know us. And, by the way, we didn’t buy anything at Target. Gotta love the paradox of choice. We went back to the hotel room and watched Finding Dory.

This year, I was worried that my niece was straight-up ruined. She would ask to go to Paris or somewhere fancy for her birthday, and I would have to tell her that Auntie Laurie killed her start-up and won’t have the budget for Paris. Unless she wants to go to New Paris, Indiana. That’s within the realm of possibilities.

But this kid is grateful, fun and unpretentious. She’s got some super awesome DNA from her mom. You know where she wants to go? A waterpark. In Wisconsin. After we go in the swimming pool, she wants to go to Olive Garden.

Done! God knows I’m going to have some insane stories. I can’t wait.

I never want to be that crazy aunt who acts like her nieces and nephews are her children. That’s not my style. I’m also not the aunt who sits at the kid’s table trying to reclaim my youth. No thanks. I want to be a positive influence in the lives of my nieces and nephews on all sides of my family, and sometimes I want to surprise a kid on her birthday and show her a good time.

I know my strengths. Swoop in, swoop out, have fun. The story of my life, my career, and my relationships. And, in that way, it’s super fun to be an auntie. I never expected a sassy little niece, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to start spoiling my little nephew, too!


  1. Just be the awesome fun aunt. That’s all she needs at that age. Do the fun, silly things that she might not get to do otherwise. Make memories with her.

  2. What a fun tradition you’ve started! And yes, I’m not sure why people make some of the comments they do. I think many of us could benefit from folks keeping some of their opinions to themselves. Just because they don’t allow shopkins, doesn’t mean they have to be banned from all households. I hope you and your niece enjoy the water park and Olive Garden!

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