I often write in here about my close friend Sara who has two young boys. One is 7 and one is 4.
I saw Sara last night and she told me that the 4 year old said something interesting to her when they were out shopping the other day. He said, "Mommy, not all people have kids." (Where did that come from?) Sara replied, "That's right. Aunt Mandy and Uncle John don't have kids." He paused for a moment, looking at Sara like she was crazy, and then said, "Yes they do. They have me and Michael" (his brother)."
It really touched me that in some way, this small child perceives of us as some version of his parents. Isn't that interesting? It just goes to show that choosing not to have kids doesn't mean a person will have no impact on children and will not reap any rewards of a relationship with children.
I continue to maintain that being an uncle or aunt (whether by blood, or by title only) is the perfect role when it comes to a relationship with children. It's an even better role than grandparent, since grandparents have more expectations and obligations foisted on them. Aunts and Uncles, however, get all of the fun and love without the burden or sacrifice. It's gratifying to be the cat's meow in a child's eyes, being able to get them riled up, tumble on floor with them, give and receive hugs and kisses and hear "I love you Aunt Mandy", take them places, spoil them and enjoy all the fun and fulfilling aspects of "parenthood" and then, at the end of the day when both they and you are thoroughly wrung out, hand them back to mom and dad and go back to your quiet, peaceful life.
The other thing I love about being the aunt, as opposed to mom, is I don't have to be a disciplinarian or be consistent with what I permit them to do or not do. When they are with us, it is about FUN. It is not about "you don't get dessert until you eat your vegetables", or "no, you can't have another piece of cake", "stop singing so loudly" or anything restrictive. They get to say "bad" words around us like "stupid" (yes, it's true. Their mother forbids them to use the word "stupid") and it's cute because when they say the "bad" words, I see them looking at us out of the corners of their little eyes to see if we will correct them, but we don't and this makes their day. We give them extra ice cream. We let them belch - and we laugh. We let them play hubby's drums as loudly as they want. They get to be free. And we don't have to be an example. They are well aware that their parents set the rules and are the example they are required to follow. We are the fun machine and anything goes.