Does My Niece Really Like Me?
is a freelance writer and editor who has recently become a Savvy Auntie!
Every winter I dye my hair darker. It’s something I got into the habit of doing ever since college. So this past winter was no different than before. I dyed my hair and then set off to visit my sister.
When I arrived in Washington D.C. with my newly dyed dark brown with lavender highlighted hair, I settled into the backseat next to my niece. I had recently seen her in February (pre-dyed hair) and all was normal. Normal meaning that she smiled at me, calmed when I held her, and we sat and played with each other without problems. So when I leaned over to say hello, I thought I’d get a big smile, but she just stared then looked away. When we got to my sister’s place, the minute I picked her up she started crying. “It’s not you,” my sister said. “She’s in the ‘I want mommy.’ phase.” Apparently, that happens around 10 months old.”
Okay, call me crazy if you want to, but I don’t think my niece liked my new hair color. I’m of the opinion that she no longer recognized who I was, so suddenly after finally reconnecting with her since being back from Madrid– I again felt like I was starting at square one. The whole time I was visiting our relationship would ebb and flow. Sometimes it was as if she knew who I was and at others I represented something dark, evil, and foreign.
Although my sister kept promising, “It’s not you,” I couldn’t help but feel that my niece no longer liked me. I tried everything: put music on so we could dance, let her crawl up the steps, read her a story, fed her, but after minutes of feeling stamped and approved she’d look at me and start to cry. What do you do with this feeling? Granted she’s young, so I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that my niece doesn’t like me – but it did get me thinking.
All the stories about high school popularity ran through my head – I felt like I was trying to get my niece to like me. Every time she cried my sister would pick her up and she’d calm down. Throughout my life I’ve never strived to be the favorite, but suddenly it was very apparent that I wasn’t. Yes, mommies are the mommies – but it was the first time I truly felt like I was being picked last for gym class.
How did all this make me feel? Well, it was like meeting someone for the twelfth time and suddenly realizing that they have don’t know who you are, nor do they like you.
Because my niece is so young I could say that she doesn’t know who anybody is except mom and dad, and that all this is something I’ve stirred up on my own. And, well, that might be the case. If she were older and had this reaction to me then maybe I would think she truly didn’t like me or want to be around me.
So it’s not time to throw in the towel … as my sister says, “It’s just the I want mommy phase.” And although I blame most of this on my dyed hair, I’m sure that if I read the baby books I would find that I happened to dye my hair at the same time that she was developing people recognition skills, or something, which means I could have showed up looking exactly like I had previously and she would still look at me like a stranger.
At this point I’m just trying to rationalize this feeling of not being liked by my niece. And even though I packed up and left to go back to Madrid – I’m not giving up on my relationship with my niece. Someday, she’ll know who I am and like me – with or without dyed hair.