My Niece Is Turning 10 Years Old Today. Why Can’t She Stay Young Forever?

4 May

On a recent visit to New York, it got to be that time, and my sister asked my niece, Abby, who she wanted to put her to sleep that night. With minimal hesitation, Abby responded, “Uncle.”

So up we went, and after a bit of her customary procrastination — she had to rearrange her stuff, she had to check out her fish, she had to put stuff away, she had to change from shorts into pants, then change back again, etc. etc. etc. — she got into bed.

The two of us laid there for a few minutes, talking. She had a bunch of random questions for me, including: Was I dating anyone? What happened to the woman I was dating (two years earlier)? I answered, and she had some follow-ups, but I’m not sure she really cared; she just didn’t want to go to sleep yet.

But given the hour, I told her it was time to stop talking and that she should go to sleep. And she eventually obliged, grabbing Quackers (the stuffed duck that’s as old as she is) and strategically positioning a few of her other, many stuffed animals near her till she was comfortable, then getting close to me so we could snuggle.

I held on to her for a few minutes, hearing and feeling her body breathing, and when I thought she’d finally drifted off to sleep, I lifted my arm up, gently rolled over, and tried to get off the bed.

Major fail.

Sensing I was trying to leave, Abby grabbed my arm tight and said, in that half-asleep kid-voice of hers, “No, Uncle. Don’t go.” So I gave her another few minutes of snuggle time, hoping that she’d finally fall asleep.

And then I tried again. And for a second time, she wanted me to stay. “No, Uncle. Don’t go.” But it was late (for her), so I told her I’d see her in the morning. And I guess that was enough reassurance for her to let me go, because she did.

It wasn’t long after that that she fell asleep for real.

It’s times like those that remind me just how lucky I am to have such a special relationship with my niece (and her two brothers, of course). It started 10 years ago today, when I was at the hospital the night she was born, and has continued through many fun visits to Boston, multiple trips to Florida, school shows, sleepovers, a brief but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at being pen pals, FaceTime conversations, surprise meetups at Mystic Seaport, holiday gatherings with family, Duck Tours, messy ice cream outings, attempts to recreate the Doug Flutie statue on the Boston College campus, Slanket sadness and then Slanket love, rides on slides and merry-go-rounds and roller coasters, endless YouTube video nights, impromptu photo shoots, emoji-filled text messages, sports-team teasing, tearful goodbyes, and much more. We just have a tight bond that has resulted in many good times over the past decade — a bond that I think will always be there.

I know a number of people who aren’t as close with their siblings’ kids, or whose siblings aren’t as tight with their kids. It’s too bad. Being an uncle is one of the great joys of my life, and I am so happy that Abby has been raised to value family and appreciate grownups who aren’t her mom and dad.

Abby and I have been tight pretty much since day one, and she is one of my favorite people in the whole world. She’s definitely my favorite niece — even if, as Abby often reminds me, she’s my only niece. And, though she has another uncle, her cousins’ father, I’d like to think the fact that she calls me just “Uncle” — not “Uncle Martin” or even “Uncle Momo” — is symbolic of just how much I mean to her.

This bedtime routine reassures me that, even though Abby is turning 10 years old today, and she’s grown into a moody (very moody), iPad-addicted, independent, risk-taking, often fearless, sometimes klutzy, YouTube-loving, Dancing with the Stars–obsessed, phone-resistant big sister and almost-teenager, she’s still a sweet little girl who likes the comfort and security of a good snuggle at the end of the day. With time moving way too quickly for my liking, this is one aspect of our relationship where it feels like time stands still.

I know there will come a day when Abby won’t want — or need — someone to put her to bed at night. And I know she won’t always want me to do it. So I’m cherishing all the opportunities I get now, and I’m hoping she won’t grow up too quickly.

Happy birthday, Abby! I love you.

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2 Responses to “My Niece Is Turning 10 Years Old Today. Why Can’t She Stay Young Forever?”

  1. Mitzi May 4, 2018 at 8:38 am #

    I love this beyond words. You are one of her favorite people and that will never change.

  2. Megan May 4, 2018 at 11:37 am #

    The sweetest ❤️

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