Never take a naked selfie, and other advice from an aunty to her niece
I’ve just spent a glorious weekend with my little niece, who is about to turn two years old. It got me thinking about my responsibilities as an aunty. There’s not really a rule book. You’re there for playtime and you give them back when there’s poop in the nappy, right?
I’m in the privileged position of being able to spend short bursts of time with my niece, filling them with all the best fun, and return to my city life at the end of it where my comparative responsibilities are trifling (I don’t even have a goldfish to keep alive). I will love and be loved unequivocally in the way only a family bond can achieve, and I get to do it without the tears and tantrums. But I’m totally ok with that, and so is my sister. If I’m lucky, I’ll get my turn at motherhood and I fully expect my sister to be on hand to spoil my little ones with love and cuddles and fun.
And of course, being this kind of aunt is pretty darn lovely. My niece is a particularly cute, blue-eyed, red-haired cherub who is affectionate, funny, mischievous and kind. And she’s actually funny too – both intentionally and unintentionally. She can’t pronounce the ‘l’ in clock and likes to yell it out joyfully in the middle of the street. Of course I’m biased, but you cannot want for more than you’d find in my sister and brother-in-law, who have raised a perfect baby who is gracefully turning into a happy little girl.
So without a rule book for aunties, what can I bring to the table other than indulging my niece in chocolatey treats, silly toys and overpriced outfits? There’s that song that goes something like, if only I knew what I know now (was it Rod Stewart?). I often wonder what pearls of wisdom would have kept my teen angst or childhood worries at bay. And so, just for you my niece, here are my top nuggets for your future…
- Never ever take a naked selfie… When you are 15 and you like a boy or a girl (and one or t’other will happen), I promise that it will never be a good idea to have pictorial evidence of you at your most vulnerable. No. Just no.
- Don’t listen to your careers advisor… A few questions, clever algorithms and someone who’s known you for all of five minutes are not a recipe for your future. Follow your heart, your likes, your passions.
- Read a few paper books and campaign for libraries… This one’s selfish. I know I know, it’s all about tablets, print circulation is down because we’re all online now. Blah blah blah. But smelling the pages of a new book, or a much-loved second-hand one, reaching the end and turning the last page, wandering the aisles of a library, losing track of time reading the spines. It’s a priceless experience.
- Don’t bunk off sports… When I was 13, me and my group of girlfriends ran the 1500m relay at sports day and not only did we win, we broke the record for our year. It was a bloody brilliant feeling. Sports have that effect on people whether you’re 13 or 30. Keep playing.
- If you grow up fast, make sure you have the best fun as an adult… Kids seem to grow up faster that we did, right? Barbies are out by seven, make-believe is ditched in favour of Playstations. If you can’t hang onto that wonderful dreamy world of childhood imagination and you’re itching to shave your legs and wear lip gloss, well, at least make sure that your 20s and 30s see you having giggles until it hurts, saying yes more than you say no and dancing like no one is watching.
- There is nothing you can’t tell me… I will never judge you. I love you. End of.