Lately, I have been spending my days playing ‘nanny’ to my incredible nieces and nephew for my wonderful and BRAVE older sister, Julia.
A series of unfortunate events led me to being unemployed this past December and for the first time in my fairly young career-life, I really started questioning my happiness in my most recent roles. Whether it was the type of organization/role or the field of marketing itself has yet to be determined – whatever the root cause, I am a firm believer that happiness is one of the most important aspects of life, in all areas, and it was a bit of a wake-up call.
For the first few weeks or so of my ‘vacation from life’, I thoroughly enjoyed the leisure of my new found freedom and lack of responsibility – soaking in the early morning light as I woke with no alarm, working out whenever I wanted, spending days with friends that held opposite schedules of my previous 9-5 office life, going days without having to put on pants (seriously, best thing about not having a job), dropping in to see my sisters, nieces and nephew during THE DAY, properly preparing the house for Christmas and all the events of Christmas coming, getting sick with the flu – twice – and having the proper time to take care of myself and sleep as much as I could.
And then reality kicked in. Hard.
Reality of my blaring lack of income, lack of purpose, lack employment, lack of contribution to society, lack of ‘insert negative attribution of not having a job here’ and my natural reaction of pure panic set in. I had never been unemployed for longer than a few weeks and while I was applying and interviewing, I still had not found the role for me and it was FREAKING me out.
And then I got the call.
An innocent request to retrieve my oldest niece Sophie from school triggered my sister’s brave admittance to struggling with PPD and her even braver request for help.
I was needed.
Call it fate, kismet, God’s intervention (my personal belief) or the like, there was a divine reasoning behind my lack of gainful employment and I was needed.
While I would like to say I have been selflessly aiding my sister with her beautiful babies – trekking to and from school while negotiating with Sophie regarding outfit/hair accessory/schedule of the day, handling Lillian’s toilet-training-tantrums and mishaps, changing Isaac’s poop-exploded diapers – with grace and determination, I would be lying.
Being with my sister and her babies every day has been one of the most selfish things I have ever done. I am not sure of many other aunties who are nearly as lucky as I am to get to spend so much quality time with their nieces/nephews. In fact, among our sisterhood, there has been explicit expression of the jealousy they have of me – with one working insane-o hours and the other so very far away.
Don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned struggles do in fact take place daily. There are stressful and overwhelming moments, moments filled with wonder at how Julia does it/what was Julia thinking having SO many kids and moments that make me question my abilities to handle and guide such young and precious minds.
But none of these moments will ever compare to the other moments that fill the days.
The influence these little people have had on me has been nothing short of profound, enlightening and priceless. They have gifted me something that I thought was long lost and unrecoverable: they have found my inner child.
I have noticed a shift in my behaviour, even my attitude and I attribute it fully to the impact of these little people on me. Based on the following changes I can say I know the child-like Toni has returned to breathe new life into what was once a blindly living adult:
1. Announcing and celebrating burps: while my sisters can attest to my ability to burp like nobody’s business and reveling in it when I was younger, when boys and dating started to become of interest to me, this habit quickly stopped in order to appear more eligible. I refuse to this day to fart in front of my fiancé, so you can imagine his surprise when I let out a large, rather gratuitous burp last week while watching TV. Instead of my usual “Excuse me” and apology for how gross that was, I turned to him and announced, “I burped!” He looked at me, quite confused and said, “Good for you?”. While I was slightly horrified at my initial reaction, a smile formed on my face as I realized I had picked up this adorable behaviour from my youngest niece, Lillian. Now the lesson here is not in the burp itself, but in the ability to embrace your inner silly-side and give yourself a bit of freedom to relax. Not only had I broken one of my own impossible-to-live-up-to standards for living with another being, but I had reacted with pure joy at the surprise of how freeing it was. Yay me!
2. Waving your freak flag: up until quite literally yesterday, you could not pay Sophie to spend a day without her purple, plastic crown. This crown was a gift from me to her, something I never imagined would ever become so important to her, so quickly. A freebie in a Happy Meal, the crown came along when I gave into an insatiable craving for a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Sophie has believed of her royal status long before the purchase of this Happy Meal, so I felt it only fitting to gift it to her, instead of returning it to the counter. I could have never prepared myself for the reaction and love she would have for this crown. She never took it off. Ever. Becoming her signature accessory, Sophie has not been seen at any moment without her crown – even when she played a sheep in her Sunday School Christmas Program.
Not only does she wear her crown, but she proudly shows it off to anyone who may glance in her direction and introduces herself as Princess Sophie. She does not care what people may think, as her childish joy in this item outweighs her awareness of the judgey world we live in. What a lesson to be taught by someone so little. While I do not revolve my life around the opinions of others, I do let insecurities creep up and wonder how people will receive and perceive me. However, being exposed to the surety in which Sophie carries herself, made my heart ache with a bit of sadness for myself – at what age did I start caring what people thought? How many things have I backed out of, changed my mind about, didn’t wear, wore too much of, based on other people’s opinions? And how many of these ‘people’ really mattered? Not many. From now on I am going to wave my freak flag, whatever it may, proudly, with less concern for other’s opinions and more concern for my own child-like joy in life.
3. Shrills, shrieks and laughter: pure, unadulterated joy – for no freaking reason. As silly as it sounds, Isaac’s ability to both entertain and thrill himself just by blowing a few spit-filled raspberries with his mouth amazes me. It is one of his new-found talents and the smile that comes to his face after he’s created that sound with his mouth is infectious and lesson-filled. He has joy for no reason. Lillian will often look at me and shriek with excitement that bursts through her piercing blue eyes and causes her face to run red with life – for no reason at all, other than to show her happy and get a laugh out of me. Seriously, at what point in our inevitable growing up do we lose focus of our ‘happy for no reason’ joy? It may be the long hours worked at a sometimes-thankless job, or the wear of financial burden when the outcome is more than the income, or the schedule to keep with the children to get in all of the committed activities, or the increased awareness of ‘things’ to do, have and desire, or our inability to unplug from our cell phones, social media and work that sometimes sneaks home with us. But when did any of that mean we should lose our happy? Huge life lesson here for me: be happy like a child for no reason and be worried when your happy is attached to something – nothing in the life is permanent and that reason can easily be taken from you.
While I am excitedly looking forward to the next chapter of my career-life, I am revelling in theses moments filled with lessons being freely taught to me by such young influences. Lessons that I will happily apply to all aspects of my life. I pray daily that I am making a difference for my sister, brother-in-law and their precious babies, but more so, I am sending prayers of thanks for these lessons taught to me by these incredible souls and to God for giving me the time to learn.