Wednesday, January 19, 2005

If only we could have understood sooner.

I've been spending a lot of time with my niece and nephew since I've been here with my sister. My niece is about to turn 15, and my nephew is 12. There are a lot of things that make it cool to be around them at this age. They are interactive, bright, funny kids. I see a lot in them that is unique, and a lot of other things that are typical to kids in their respective age groups. My nephew loves video games. My niece is into a particular kind of make-up, and is discovering boys.

I feel a pretty strong responsibility to these kids to be a positive presence in their lives. I think that my relationship with them puts me in a position to teach them things that might otherwise be annoying coming from a parent. I know that I'm definitely not like my aunt's were with me when I was growing up. My niece and I like a lot of the same bands, and the same witty t-shirts, and cool Vans shoes. My nephew and I share a love of South Park, Lego's, and a yeti doll named 'Fluffy'.

More than anything though, I want them to learn from me. I don't know exactly when I realized that most of the things adults told me when I was a kid were true. All those ways to handle difficult situations, all those ways to socialize with people, all those ways I could have avoided the pressures of being a teenager. In other words, 'if I only knew then what I know now' stuff. I'm having such a hard time with this one, though. I keep asking myself how I can phrase things so that they sink in...really sink in.

My niece is the one that makes me think hardest. She's in her first year of high school, and because she was smart enough she got a scholarship to a private school here. This took her away from her friends who served as her social security blanket. She's having a hard time making the adjustment to her new school, since all of her friends go to the public school. She doesn't think any boys like her because she's a 'freak'. She's a cheerleader. She's tall, and she's gorgeous. She has so many outstanding qualities about her, but because the boys haven't given her the right kind of attention, she thinks there's something wrong with her. She's just like I was. Very secure in a lot of ways, and a complete mess in others. I desperately want to get through to her that she just needs to think differently about some things. I don't want her to carry the same self-esteem issues that I still battle all the time. I want to make it easier for her. I just haven't quite figured out how to get the message across without seeming like I'm just another adult trying to tell her all the things she doesn't want to hear.

The process is very frustrating because I want them to understand. I've found myself thinking of friends who have kids and wondering how they do this. I think it takes an outstanding amount of courage and patience to be a parent.

I wish I could have listened more to people who were trying to navigate the tough times with me when I was younger. I know that there are some things you have to find out for yourself, but I also know that having someone to offer support and guidance goes a long way. I want to be that type of person to my nieces and nephews.

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