Winnie the Pooh once said, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart,” and that quote was never more relevant to me than when I found out I was going to be an aunt!
As a woman, it’s so exciting when someone in my family announces the pitter patter of small feet. There was going to be a little person joining my family! Little did I know, this little person was going to become my best friend and teach me things I never knew I would need to know.
Of course, my little sister becoming pregnant was a huge surprise! But once the shock wore off, I was beyond excited. My new niece or nephew was going to be my mom’s first grandchild and my first biological niece or nephew.
The amazing thing was, I lived with my grandmother, my sister and my soon to be niece. There were going to be 5 women under one roof! I’m sure you can imagine the fights over the bathroom.
When my niece was born, I fell so in love. I was part of her birth and then got to spend the next 3 years living with her. I had no idea I needed this to happen. During those years with her, she taught me so much and because of those lessons, I am a better stepparent and person.
I knew I could love someone else’s child like my own.
Before I became a stepparent, I had been somewhat of a parental figure for someone else’s child. I already knew I had the capacity to love a child that wasn’t my own.
This is something I see so many stepmoms struggle with—knowing it’s okay to love their stepchildren as if they were their own.
I had already been crazy about my niece, so when I became a part of my stepsons’ lives, it was just as natural as becoming an aunt was.
My niece had taught me the art of unconditional love.
I knew the priority was quality time, not appearance.
My makeup didn’t have to be perfect; I could be in my sweats and as long as I was playing with her or feeding her, what I looked like didn’t matter.
If I’m dressed for jumping in puddles on rainy days, that means we get to make entertaining and fond memories. Instead of trying to look perfect for my stepsons, I try to look like I’m ready for any adventure.
They do not care what you look like, as long as you’re ready for a nerf gun war, a sing-a-long or to jump in puddles in the rain that is all that matters. Nothing says love more than comfortable pants and fun adventures.
Those are the things they will remember. That is love.
I knew that mornings with kids are unpredictable.
Even as an aunt, I had early mornings. There would often be a little knock on my bedroom door: Guess what?! My niece is awake and thinks the whole house should be too!
This prepared me for early morning Beyblade battles and late night movies as a stepmom.
Waking up blurry eyed with bed hair, as long as there is a wonky smile on my face, my stepsons know I will always try to start the day bright and cheery.
Being woken up by a curly haired 2-year-old niece prepared me to do just that.
I already knew how to care for a child, both emotionally and physically.
When my niece was sick and needed to be home with me, it taught me how to give squishy cuddles to a sick toddler. Now when my stepsons are sick, I know to give them medicine and squishy cuddles and to be prepared for runaway boogers.
If it wasn’t for becoming an aunt, this transition to stepmom life wouldn’t be the same.
Because I was an aunt first, I know how to be the friend that my stepsons’ need, I know to be their confidant when they just want to talk in a safe place, I know how to be silly and not be ashamed of it.
My niece changed my life for the better. Embarking on stepparent life is difficult, especially as a childless stepparent, but being an aunt meant I already knew much of what to expect.
I knew there would be tantrums, I knew there would be tears, and I knew there would be hard days.
I also knew that there would be so much laughter, happy tears, boogers, and a million squishy cuddles combined with late nights and early mornings.
So now, as a stepmom, instead of little niece feet creeping to my door, I now get to listen to little boy feet sneaking in to say good morning.
I think Winnie the Pooh was right, the smallest of things take up the most room in your heart. For me, this began with the birth of my niece and then that little space filled up even more when I became a stepparent.
Not a day goes by where my stepparenting isn’t affected by lessons I learned from my niece.
Because of her, I am the best stepmom I can be, and I will forever be thankful for the experiences, lessons, and invaluable perspective I gained from being her aunt.
P.S. Are you still looking for ways to connect with the kids? Here’s our no-nonsense guide to bonding with stepchildren.