Today as of about lunchtime I have been Auntie Gwennan (formally Genny, Gennan and Auntie Gennan) for two years to the cutest little girl. A week after I finished university my younger brother and his fiancé promoted me from just sister to Auntie at the tender age of 22 and life with a niece has been madness from the get go.
I love being an auntie and my niece is my favourite person to hang out with (soz friends, family and boyfriend). For a two year old she's a lot of fun, really good company and a right old laff. My niece has a lot of family and we are her childcare whilst her Dad is working and her Mum is graduating which means I care for her twice a week and she comes to play at least another once a week if not more.
With a lil birthday celebration coming up (she's having 2 parties cos you're only 2 once), here's some things I've observed in my 2 years on this planet as an Auntie.
1. It's the best cure for broodiness.
I wasn't broody by any means when my niece was born, I was just finishing university and coming home to debt and starting a business but a new born baby is the absolute cutest thing. I can imagine if DO fancy one of your own but don't want the night feeds or the crying then being able to cuddle and then hand back is the ultimate goals. There is nothing like new born baby smell or them squishy fat legs or a cuddle with a sleeping baba but you just don't get the sleep deprivation and you get to buy all the cute clothes. It's pretty ace.
2. I have a stronger stomach than I thought.
I have a weak stomach, the slightest thing turns my knees to jelly, the mere mention most things makes me want to hurl and I've been known to faint over the tiniest thing. Having a niece means sick and nappies and turns out, actually I can do better than I expected. I've always been like "I don't know how I'd cope with being a Mum because I'd just spend all the time spewing"...turns out you do just get on with it and learn where to get a strong stomach. Who knew.
3. Instincts work.
Trust your gut. Babies can't talk, they can't tell you why they're crying and you just kinda have to work it out. I feel like I'm talking like a first time Mum in this post but I can't explain why the relationship I have with my niece is different to just an Auntie niece relationship, I'm her childcare part time, she isn't just raised by her Mum and Dad because her Mum and Dad have jobs and university. She's raised by her Mum, her Dad, me, her other Auntie, both sets of grandparents.... I spend a lot of time playing with her and getting all the nice bits but I also get all the meal preparation and the forcing to sleep and the bathing and the changing and all the general day to day looking after of a baby. You generally get some intuition into what you think is wrong, how to fix it and what they need and most of the time you're right.
4. It's so much easier when they can talk.
That being said. the fact that babies learn to talk is a god send. "Are you hungry?" "Do you want to eat this?" "What do you want to eat?" "Are you hot?" "Are you sleepy?" "What's the matter?"My niece can now answer everything I need her to and suddenly I don't need to rely on instinct, I can literally just ask her and she'll tell me. Also, important to remember - toddlers are liars so you might need to rely on instinct after all.
5. Every 'stage' is the best stage.
I swear every stage she's at I'm like "awww I wish she could stay like this, this is the best stage'. When all she did was sleep and cuddle, when she started sitting up, when she learnt to crawl, when she started speaking, when she learnt to walk, when she started giving hugs and kisses, when she learnt my name.... I've always thought they were the best but I genuinely think now is the best, 18 months - 2 years where she can run, jump, dance, feed herself. Now when she can tell me what she did a few weeks ago and remember all the details, where we can hold a real conversation or she can recite the alphabet or sing about 15 different nursery rhymes in full and in tune. Now when she can draw with me and I can explain things to her, when she can ask questions about the world and I can teach her new things. But also now when she still will only go to sleep with me when she's here or when she clings to me for safety when she meets strangers or when she says "Oh I didn't need to be scared, I didn't need to hide" because I taught her how the toilet flushes and why it makes a funny sound. Part baby, part toddler, part child, fun and cuddly and loving and wild.
6. Babies need lots of clothes.
Like 3 changes of clothes a day and then pjs amount of clothes. Babies are expensive, they grow quickly, they're messy, they like dirt and they like water. They also inexplicably decide they hate wearing t shirts one week or their jeans are hurting them or they don't like their socks or they won't wear mittens. Toddlers logic is insane and you'll need 9873468 alternatives to the outfit they're wearing when they leave the house.
7. Babies don't need lots of toys.
My niece has every toy under the sun and yet give her the simplest things and she's happy. Sure she knows the name of every My Little Pony she owns or she asks for a caterpillar for her birthday and she has a book collection a library would be envious of...but it's the outdoors she loves the most. Stick her in a paddling pool or a swing or get her to help you put the washing on the line or sweep the floor or plant some peas in the garden and she'll be out there for hours. Give her an inside of a toilet roll as a telescope or a bit of foil as a space helmet or the fridge magnets or some shells and a tray of water and she's entertained for hours.
8. I'm pretty great with kids.
I have always been the 'you'll probably have kids first' one, the friend that people's younger siblings like, the person that kids accidentally hold hands with or smile at in the supermarket. But it's not till having my niece that I acknowledged that yeah, I am pretty natural with them. I do know what she needs, I find it easy to manage her shit fits, I know how to get her to sleep, I'm in tune with her emotions and what might frighten her and what needs explaining. I know how to get down on my knees to her level to explain why she can't do something or go somewhere or have something, I just know her.
9. You have no need for nice clothes or nice things.
Forget wearing anything white for the next 15 years, forget wearing anything but things that are easy to sit on the floor or play in. My outfits are dependant less on how I want to look and more "what can I go on a bouncy castle in" or "what will hide the strawberry stains". My earrings selection has also been limited to "what can't she pull out of my ear" and my rings and bracelet choices have been whittled down to "what won't stab her when I change her" or "what is she least likely to snap". You can't have nice things.
10. Your house is a death trap.
Who knew your home and everything in it was so dangerous yet you've managed to live here for 22 years in relative safety? Plugs - no. Everything in the kitchen - hazard. Floors - like an ice rink for toddlers in socks. Bathroom - full of medicines and tablets to kill you. Beds and couches - bouncing death trap. Garden - don't even go there. You see your home in a whole new light when there's tiny fingers and toes trying to open cupboards for the first time or trying to plug a lamp in.
11. Everything in life is a potential risk.
Turns out, the outside world is just as dangerous as your own house. Everything is a hazard to a baby, you have to teach them about cars and strange dogs and sharp objects and falling off things. Even soft play, even things designed for kids are full of danger. And don't forget toddlers will be VERY angry you won't let them run across a road or eat a snail or fall in a river, they are furious little beings.
12. Everything is also fabulous.
It's not all bad, the world is also uhhhmazzing to a child. You can't even imagine the joy when they see a bug for the first time or a cat or snow or the sea. Everything is fascinating, they see new things every single day and it totally rubs off on you. I am more aware of how amazing things are for my niece and that in turn makes it more amazing for me. I take her new places because I know she loves it, I show her animals because I know she loves them, I tell her about everything, I show her everything and point it out and life is definitely more exciting when there's a baby to share it with.
13. Kids like technology.
Technology isn't just a first world privilege for us, kids LOVE it too. My niece has been able to operate an iPad for well over a year now, she complains when ads interrupt her videos on Youtube, she knows how to play her games, to swipe for the apps she wants to use and she Facetimes us when she's away. Kids are astoundingly clever on tech we didn't have when we were children.
14. Your food is not your own.
Just last week I was sat in an armchair with my niece tucked next to me, I had a scone on my lap and she had a bowl with little pieces of chocolate in. I was chatting away to my Mum and my Dad suddenly went "UH" and by the time I reacted, she'd shoved half my scone into her mouth. She said "I want your dinner" to me this week. she shares her food with me and she also gives me the half eaten bits of bread and butter she doesn't want which is nice.
15. I know a lot more nursery rhymes than I thought.
My niece has just recently in the last few weeks started singing and turns out, I know a lot more than I remember. Forget Twinkle Twinkle and Incy Wincy Spider, I'm all about London Bridge and Pat A Cake that were long forgotten in my mind. Turns out they're still there hidden in the back of my brain along with fuzzy felt and making everything out of pipe cleaners.
16. Learning English is hard.
You know people learning English as a foreign language say it's difficult? Having watched a baby learn to speak I can suddenly understand why. Kids are remarkable, the sheer fact they learn to do so much at such a young age, things like walk and talk are insane. My niece started with the usual Mummy and Daddy and duck and is now onto 'stegosaurus' and 'pterodactyl'. She can do numbers in English and Welsh, she can do the alphabet, she uses both and actually correctly, she says "oh I see" when something is explained to her. But she also says things like "sheep" and "sheeps" for the multiple. She says "foot" and "foots". English is hard and she learns from copying from us, and we ain't all that good at speaking the Queens either.
17. Kids have an attitude sassier than Beyoncé.
Who knew toddlers had so much attitude? From tantrums to answering back to bare faced lying, they have so much sass but the fact they're a tiny person means you end up laughing. Forget telling them off for their lip, you can't help but giggle when a one year old says "you want to get out the way."
18. Children's TV/toys aren't as good any more.
Postman Pat isn't right, Fireman Sam isn't the same, where's Teletubbies and Come Outside. Stuff your Peppa Pig and My Little Pony, your In The Night Garden and Peg Plus Cat (although I do quite enjoy Mike the Knight it has to be said.)
19. I might be alright when I have kids.
I think having a niece has put me in pretty good stead for having kids of my own. Having so much to do with her, being her childcare has given me life experiences most first time Mum's wouldn't normally get. I used to be so scared of holding tiny babies, of standing up to walk them around, of feeding them a bottle. Don't even get me started on nappies or changing clothes or bathing - that just wasn't on my radar. Now I get passed any extended family member's little one so mumma can have a break and it's like the most natural thing in the world. I should be a full time babysitter imo.
20. It's the best bloody thing.
I adore the bones off that little girl and every day I spend with her is an absolute joy. Happy 2nd birthday you maniac, Auntie Gwennan loves you all the world.