I just spent the weekend with my niece, Charlie (nickname for Charlise). I am utterly addicted to her. She has not even been gone for 24 hours and I miss her so much. What is it about little munchkins that make our hearts yearn for them?
My sister and I had a conversation during our last visit over a month ago, about being connected to children in ways that our parents were not connected to us. Part of that is about paying attention to their wants, needs and being present. I know it is a different era, but I grew up in one (of which I have said often) where my father felt that children should be seen and not heard. Maybe I was grossly offended by this, tainted, what have you, but I am definitely not going to have my kid(s) nor my niece(s), nephew feel that they should not be heard. Their voice matters. I watch the deep love my sister has for Charlie. It is so clear that Charlie is so loved. My sister does not complain, you can see her yearn for her time with Charlie, it is as if she knows so deeply that this precious time will not last, and she is going to make sure Charlie has a different childhood than she had.
Our childhood story is bigger than just not being heard. My mom had an at home day care when I was very young, and yet I do not remember her ever being (that I can remember) the touchy, hugger, cuddler type. My dad became more of a hugger once I was in college. My grandma was even less of a hugger. So, maybe that was why my mom was not much for cuddles. Fast forward to my sister and me. Before Charlie we were not really that into hugging. Yet, with Chris I am a hard-core hugger. I need my daily…well multiple times a day hugs from him. I love hugs. I want to start my day with one, I want to end my day with one. I would take a deep intense hug over a kiss any day. I strongly believe that somehow Charlie has made my sister and me connect on a deeper level. Almost like Charlie has broken the years of non-hugging brought about by my childhood family. Thank you, Charlie!
I wonder, do we give our kids what we never had? Did my sister and I crave that kind of connection and family that she is now giving Charlie? I love Charlie with a depth and yet I have only seen her a total of three weekends. Where does that come from? Where does that love so deep and so extensive show up and we know we are never the same without this precious munchkin in our world? We want to make them laugh and giggle. We want to cuddle, snuggle, and never forget their smell.
Over the weekend I visited my sister and got to meet my three-week old niece. Her name is Charlise and they have been calling her Charlie. I secretly love calling her Charlie. She looks like a Charlie. Do not ask me to explain, as I will get defensive, just trust me, she is a Charlie. She is a feisty little one, even at three weeks. My sister always said she had a kicker, and she definitely lets her legs move or tighten at her own will. Especially when you change her diaper. She will tighten her little thighs (which I call chicken legs). She is very, very long for her size, has long feet, toes, and fingers, but the cutest thunder thighs (thus the chicken legs). When she does not want you to change her diaper (which hell must be new when you have just been pooping in the womb for all those months and now you have to wear a diaper). Anyway – she will tighten her legs/thighs and make it much, much harder to change her diaper. I love it. A fighter, which hopefully means she will tell it like it is, when she starts to babble and eventually talk. Right now, she communicates with her legs. My sister says she often kicks her while nursing. Little Charlie communicates in her own way.
Recently I came across this quote from Anne Lamott, and it made me think about how I felt today as I left my sister and my niece and boarded an airplane back to Portland:
“The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it…I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away.”
Is that what it is like for most moms? I had a good afternoon yesterday. There was good energy in the office, but I kept thinking about my time with Charlie. Whatever it is, whether because she is so small and precious or because it is my sister’s daughter, I just feel such a strong connection to her. I will be there for her whenever she does not feel she can talk to her mom or dad (that is what aunt’s are for). I will be her “fun” aunt that teaches her all the sassy and fun things about life. I will pamper her, play with her, and above all else let her know that I am just another person in her life to love her to pieces. Hopefully I will not smother her with all my love for her, but that it will be just the right balance of spoiling her. Maybe I am making up for the fact that my parents are not here to dote on her. Even so I just want her to know how loved she is by her aunt and uncle regardless of the fact that we live on the north side of this country.
We already miss you tons, Charlie. We will be back soon.