“The aunt exists outside the immediate family unit, ambassador to a universe of other options, as well as a grown-up who isn’t an authority figure or disciplinarian.” ~ Kate Bolick
I have 5 sisters and my husband has 3 siblings. We have a combined total of 21 nieces and nephews. And I became a great aunt last year.
I don’t get to see them all with any regularity except in pictures that are posted on Facebook. In fact there are some I have never met. I don’t think they understand who I am and it is hard for me to understand. Stranger Danger.
My role hasn’t really been realized in their lives yet. I mean the older ones aren’t calling me up and asking relationship advice, telling me about their jobs, or their struggles with their parents. The younger ones don’t even remember me from year to year. There is always this warming up period that happens and then I am gone. The visits are too short.
I remember being so excited to be an aunt. I over did it with gifts and crafts. I started out with actual gifts that were hand selected with love. Then it was gift cards to Target so they could get whatever they wanted and I didn’t need to worry about whether it fit or they liked it. As the years fly by the gifts and the crafts have stopped. I had an Aunt that sent a $25 check for Christmas and Birthdays without fail. Until it was expected and we stopped writing Thank You notes. She never had any kids of her own and she just wanted the family connection we botched that by not saying Thank You.
This summer I had the pleasure of spending some real quality time with my a few of my nieces. I got a good sense of who they are and I feel as if they got to know me a little better.
This past weekend I was hoping for a similar experience but instead my nephew didn’t want to hang and the younger ones had no idea who I was. Except for my youngest sisters eldest. We had some quality time in the kitchen. It was nice. If I lived closer I could see this type of event becoming a regular event. I had no idea if she was allowed to use scissors or a knife so she had to tell me. I asked her about school and subjects and if she liked to read and dance. I told her how much I liked each of those things. I asked her to try some of the unfamiliar foods that we were eating and she did it without protesting. We bonded. But my sister had to leave in a rush and I thought I was going to get to see them again and I didn’t so my goodbye was unsatisfactory.
My sister called and I spoke to her for a bit and then she asked my nephew if he wanted to talk to Aunt Valerie. He didn’t know who I was and he certainly didn’t know what to talk to me about. I have seen him about 3 times in his life and this was to be expected. But it still hurt.
I wonder…Do you have a picture of me up in your house? When sharing stories of your childhood do you say “my sister” or “Aunt Valerie.” I am supposed to be the cool aunt that lives in California. Not the stranger that comes around once a year.
We decided not to have children. So being the favorite aunt is a goal of mine. I am going to start thinking of ways for them to know who I am so the “Stranger Danger” doesn’t happen on the next visit.