This weekend I got to spend some time with my two-month-old niece, and I realized that she has a lot to teach me. Sure, she can't speak or get anything for herself, but in some ways, she already knows more than me. So here is what I have learned from my short time with my niece:
1. Sleep is important.
This point may seem like a no-brainer, but as a college student, it is something I often ignore. I am sort of an oddball on campus in that I generally try to sleep from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night. Nonetheless, I am still guilty of the occasional late night library session or midnight girl-time on the hall. Then I look at my niece. Every chance she gets, she sleeps, and no one reprimands her for it. This is because sleep is a good thing. It helps us to repair and restore ourselves for the next day. Sleep also helps us emotionally; just like with the little one, sleeping helps us to put us in a better mood, or at least temporarily relieves us of whatever is wrong.
2. People can't help you if they don't know what's wrong.
This weekend was the first time I've spent some good quality time with my niece, and as a result, I got to witness my first baby meltdown. Looking back, it wasn't that big of a deal, she just woke up and got a little fussy. Nonetheless, a part inside of me panicked. What did this little one need? Was she hungry? Did she need her diaper changed? Was she just upset that her dad had left the room for a second? Unsure of what to do, I went for the old standby -- I awkwardly rocked her. Then from the other room, my brother told me that she was hungry and that he was making her a bottle. He brought the bottle in, and she immediately stopped crying. My brother then warned me that about ten minutes after she finished the bottle she would need a diaper change, and sure enough, she did. But this time, I was ready when the siren went off.
Even though I've been around babies before, I still haven't fully learned how to translate my niece's cries. On the other hand, since my brother has been around my niece since the day she was born, he has learned how to differentiate between her different cries. As I looked back on how helpless I felt, I realized that this issue of miscommunication still happens as we get older, and I am guilty of it myself. I will admit there have been times when I have been upset about something and just expected everyone to understand exactly what was wrong. Like my niece, I do have a few close family members and friends who understand my subtle queues, but now I realize that I can't expect everyone to understand what wrong without an explanation. This leads me to my next point...
3. It's okay to ask for help.
If my niece hadn't cried, I never would have known something was wrong. Likewise, the people around you aren't going to know you need help if you don't tell them. I am often guilty of not asking for help for two main reasons -- I am stubborn and I don't want to be perceived as a burden to others. Now the stubbornness is something that runs in our family, so I'm sure that my niece will grow into that. However, my niece has shown me that the people who are truly there for you don't see your cries for help as a burden. Sure, sometimes they might get overwhelmed like I was with the bottle incident, but overall they genuinely want to help you because they love you and are concerned for you.
4. Look at the world in wonder.
Have you ever noticed how babies look at the world? When I was walking my niece around, she suddenly stopped mid-cry. At first, I couldn't figure out what I'd done to make her stop crying, but then I realized that she was staring in awe at the ceiling fan. Something as simple as a light fixture had completely ensnared her attention. It almost makes me jealous, in a way. She is getting to experience so many things for the first time, and everything is magical because of it. But we don't have to be jealous. Instead, we can just take the time to appreciate the things around us.
5. Don't be embarrassed to toot.
Okay, I'll admit, this one doesn't really seem like a "life lesson," but it's still something I've learned from my niece. As far as I can tell this little girl has three hobbies in life: eating, sleeping, and tooting. Seriously, this girl has some major gas. But that's okay, and she doesn't seem to mind. In fact, sometimes she even makes herself smile when she toots. Seeing how happy tooting makes her reminds me that it is nothing to be ashamed of because it is just a natural bodily function.
Overall, I have already learned so much from my niece, and I can't wait to see what other lessons she has in store for me.