A year ago, I volunteered to have my family over to celebrate my niece's 4th birthday. Her birthday was on a Thursday, and the party was to be on the following Sunday. On Friday I received an irate e-mail from my sister because I hadn't called my niece on her actual birthday. She then called me at work and berated me for being so thoughtless and told me how upset my niece had been. I actually cried at my desk. After I was able to compose myself, I called my niece fully prepared to grovel for forgiveness. But as one would expect from a 4-year-old, when I apologized for not calling, she simply said, "OK" and was excited when I told her we were having ice cream with her cake on Sunday. At this point, my guilt turned to anger because I'd agonized over hurting my niece, but it seemed my sister was projecting her own issues. I love my sister dearly, so this has made me second-guess myself and question whether I am a bad sister and aunt. Am I thoughtless, or does my sister have "the world revolves around me and my children" syndrome?
Your situation could be Exhibit A for the thesis of Joseph Epstein's essay in the Weekly Standard, in which he wrote, "In America we are currently living in a Kindergarchy, under rule by children. … Children have gone from background to foreground figures in domestic life, with more and more attention centered on them, their upbringing, their small accomplishments. ... Such has been the weight of all this concern about children that it has exercised a subtle but pervasive tyranny of its own." So, break free of your chains! The fact that you were enlisted a year in advance to host a birthday party for a 4-year-old tells me that unless your sister gets some perspective, by the time this kid is 14, she's going to be a monster. Make a vow that no matter how wacky and demanding your sister gets, you will be an appropriately loving aunt to your niece, but not a sycophantic courtier at her tiny throne.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Something interesting today from Slate.com in their "Dear Prudence" column: