A while back on our Facebook page, I did one of my infamous QODs (Question of the Day). In one of the responses, an old friend of both Andrea and myself ask what a person without kids should act like around other people's children. She mentioned that she always feels like a dork when around her nieces and nephews. Then she ask if we could write a post about a topic like that. I had a LOT of thoughts from the time I read it.
As another reader (and friend) mentioned on the QOD, if you feel like a dork you're probably doing it right. This is so true! I was an Aunt long before I was a Mom. I always felt like a giant dork when I got around my nieces. When I would hang out with them or take them somewhere I always had those nagging questions of "oh, am I doing this right?" and "what would my brother do in this situation?". The answers were "yes, I probably was doing it right" and "my brother wouldn't mind what I did as long as the kids were safe".
The one thing I could/can always do for my nieces is to just listen to them. In their world, Mom and Dad were working, busy and didn't always have the time I did. I would just sit in the floor with them and listen to their stories, thoughts, fantasies and plans. I didn't judge yet would give my opinion if ask. This has been the most important thing I could have ever done for them. It really paid off when my brother got a divorce. His three girls knew they could talk to Aunt Kandi about their feelings and I would understand. Nowadays its teenage angst. My oldest niece just turned 13. She is full on teenage angst mode. The best part, while she may not always talk to her Dad about things, she will talk to me. Do I betray her trust? N-O! With one exception. If I feel she is in danger, being hurt, or needs help from a doctor in any way I will tell my brother. She knows this rule though.
Another piece of advice is to just be yourself. Kids are the most honest, loving little people. They have an uncanny way to see the good in everyone and everything. They also know the difference between real and fake. If you're fake they will pick up on it and may not warm up to you. If you're real, they will know.
Along those same lines, kids will always only know their parents as, well, their parents. You can give them a different way of looking at their parents that no one else can. I might save this for the older set of kids, but trust me, they will love knowing that their Mom or Dad once stuck a Hot Wheel tire up their nose and had to go to the hospital or that their Mom broke her arm roller skating (not that I did either of those...).
The most important thing I've learned is don't expect your friends/relatives life to be the same once they have kids. It isn't. I don't really know how to put it into words, but their life just got a lot more complicated. Don't make them feel guilty for having kids. Just as I hope they wouldn't make you feel guilty for not having them.
And remember...Dork is a good thing!