I'm not a perfect aunt, but after a decade of holding the title proudly here are four things I’ve learned.
This year, my oldest niece turned 10 and when this happened, I felt a lot of things. The first feeling was amazement. For 10 years, I have loved, cared for, and thought about someone else more than myself. The second feeling was sadness. My niece isn’t a baby anymore. She’s growing up in a world that’s getting more interesting by the minute. I can only hope that our time together will continue to make an impact on her life. The last feeling was inadequacy. Was I capable of playing a bigger role in her life? Now that she’s 10, she may need some real advice from her aunt. And to be honest, I don’t think I am ready for that.
I’m not a perfect aunt, but after a decade of holding the title proudly, here are the four things I’ve learned …
1. Enjoy the kids while they’re young
“OMG, I have a 10-year-old niece.” Those are the words I said when I woke up on my niece’s birthday. I could not believe that 10 years ago, my sister came to my high school and told me we are welcoming a beautiful baby girl into our family. Flashing back to this moment, it was the happiest moment of my life. My parents would have their first grandchild and I would have my first niece.
From constant obsessing over what clothes to buy her to deciding who was allowed to be an influencer in her life (Yes, I am that aunt!), it was pretty clear early on that I was in love with this new little human. While I have now felt similar feelings four more times since her birth, the honest takeaway from this is that time passes very quickly and before you know it, you are looking at a 10-, 9-, 8-, 6-, and 1-year-old. Even as an aunt the babies don’t stay babies. They grow up, form their own opinions, and don’t mind sharing them. Life passes fast, especially as I watch my nieces and nephew grow. I don’t always get to go to school award ceremonies or be there for plays, but I’ve learned to enjoy the time I do have with them and document every moment.
2. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep
There are no better detectives than a 4- or 5-year-old child. I can’t count how many times I’ve said something, didn’t follow through, and my nieces or nephew remind me of what I said. If you want to commit to something, tell a child and they will make sure you never forget. At certain ages, everything they hope for and want to do come from the adults in their lives. If the adults are saying things or promising stuff, the kids remember it because they know the adults are the only way they can receive those things. When it doesn’t happen, they remind us.
I’ve learned that if I want to do something, but am not sure if I can, to not say anything until it’s final. Once the plans are set in stone, then I tell my nieces and nephew. Being an aunt has taught me that not only is my presence important, but so is my word. They hold on to what I say to them. Therefore, it’s important for me to say and do things that I wouldn’t mind them reminding me of or seeing.
3. Don’t strive for perfection
Having a little person, or in my case, a lot of little people looking up to me has driven me to seek a life of perfection. I quickly learned this wasn’t possible. Some of the most intimate moments that I’ve had with my nieces and nephews are when I’ve made a mistake and had to apologize. They enjoy seeing that I am human and I feel a peace not trying to act like I’m not. Kids are good at saying sorry because they feel no shame. Remember the last time you were unashamed of who you were and the mistakes you made?
My nieces and nephews not only keep me young, they also keep me honest about my capabilities and how to best serve them as their aunt. They continuously remind me that it is not in my perfection that I serve them best but my humanness.
4. Spend a lot of time together
Through my 10 years of being an aunt, I’ve learned that kids value time. They love knowing that someone loves to hang out with them. As a child, I remember the excitement of being able to go over to my grandma’s house because she invited me over. Whether we spent the day doing nothing or everything, I just enjoyed her company. That’s the same excitement I see in my nieces and nephew when I announce I’m coming to see them.
There is nothing more important than spending time with the little people in our lives. They keep us young, they keep us honest, and because time does pass quickly, they help us enjoying every moment of their young lives. I’ve managed to assist in raising five interesting little people and I enjoy every moment of it. I look forward to what the next 10 years has in store for us.