One of the greatest gifts in my life is my niece and two nephews. However, I have found myself challenged by being an aunt. Prior to their births, I had never been in a relationship in which someone younger looked up to me. Whereas before, my decisions and words only had a meaningful impact on me, there were now little eyes and ears watching and hearing everything.
As we grow older and form relationships with those younger than us, we begin to take on more and more unspoken responsibilities. While we may not agree or want some of them, a portion of how they see the world rests on our shoulders. I have found that such responsibilities challenge me to be a better person: more thoughtful, more patient, and more understanding.
Often at Mines, I find myself using cynical and self-deprecating humor. This is fine for peers of my same age and in similar situations. However, for young people who are still forming fundamental perceptions of the world this is not responsible. I have found that, like all children, my niblings are extremely impressionable. For this reason, it is very important that I am cognizant of how I treat others and myself.
The age gap between us is unusually small and therefore they view me as a friend, as well as a family member. This provides a unique element to our relationship in that some of the things I say and do hold more weight than a parent or teacher. This forces me to practice more self-love than usual and benefits both me and them.
By seeing someone they look up to treat others and themselves with respect, they are learning that your relationship with yourself is vital. It is sometimes tiresome to constantly watch what I say, but it becomes more ingrained in them and me the more I practice it.
Even though I did not get to choose their presence, I have learned so much from them and vice versa. I am extremely lucky to have such an impactful relationship with family members, and anyone younger than me.