Thursday, April 14, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

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.


Chris said...

Couldn't agree more. I positively love being the cool Uncle and Aunt with the pool, motorbikes and convertible... (All things I couldn't afford if we had kids)

firefly said...

It's not just the aunt and uncle relationship, -- it's the CF aspect of it. You can relate to them as people because you don't have that parental mindset bolted to your brain 24/7.

None of my aunts and uncles ever let us get away with things like that, because they all had kids of their own. Check it out when a parent encounters an unknown child -- any time relating happens, the parent will adopt "parent" mode and start asking the usual authoritarian questions or look out for the kid's "safety."

They just can't help it, and I think many of them prefer it because they have a script to follow.

Good for you for showing these kids a different side of things!

Spectra said...

Can I just say that I agree with this 1000%? I defintely think being an aunt is the best thing ever. I'm like a second mom to my niece and nephews--I get to teach them stuff, play with them, hang out with them, and spoil them a bit. And the best thing is, I'm young enough to be able to keep up with them without getting frustrated--I think grandparents, even though they mean well, just can't keep up with kids and wind up getting crotchety with them. I see it with my own parents all the time...when my niece and nephew visit, my mom goes into a tailspin and gets frustrated with the kids because they won't just sit still and be quiet (they're ages 19 months and 3, so yeah). And I don't have to be a disciplinarian--if they get bratty, I just tell them I'm calling their mom. It's awesome :)

Sadie said...

I had three sets of Aunts and Uncles on both sides of my family that were childfree. I was close with one set, and they had pictures of me, my brother and our six cousins in their wallets and would show us off, proudly proclaiming us their grandchildren. I have two Godchildren whom I miss spoiling like crazy, and several honorary nieces and nephew that I adore.

Bridget said...

This is exactly why I love my job working with kids. They love me and I don't have to be the "bad guy"!

Anonymous said...

Due to infertility my husband and I have decided to remain CF. And look forward to being Aunt/Uncle...its the best of both worlds. We can love,spoil.etc. our neices/nephews then send them home when they start to drive us crazy, without parental guilt.

We are soo excited about our future! Love your blog!!!

Christy said...

I'm sorry to say my experience hasn't been as happy. I had the highest hopes for having the kind of fun, happy-go-lucky relationship with my nephews that you have with your nieces and nephews, but it didn't work out for us. I tried spoiling them and just letting them be free---not worrying about any repercussions, but they are not being socialized and disciplined properly at home, so I found myself more and more being forced into that "parental/authoritarian mode," until finally I said, this isn't worth it. I don't have kids for a reason. It just wasn't fun.

I found myself trying to prevent them from throwing rocks at my brand new metal barn, stopping them from tormenting my own pets and theirs, and horrified when an art project turned into growls and throwing and slinging paint everywhere with a vacant look in their eyes. I was even rewarded for an evening of ice cream, playing, and letting them stay up late and watch their movies to a longer extent than usual, with name-calling and wailing when it was time for bed. They weren't worn out...they just don't seem to have any appreciation.

I really tried to hold off on falling into a parent/child relationship with them, because what I wanted was the type of relationship you described, but after they didn't grow out of this behavior, I kind of threw up my hands and decided there was no hope.

It's sad for everyone involved. I don't think there is any way to fix it. It's not that I spend too much time with them. I just guess when there is no decent socialization going on at home, free and happy times away from home are anything but.

Childfree Travel said...

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of "Eat, Pray, Love") write this AWESOME tribute to aunts (she is a CF auntie) in her latest book "Committed". It is took long to post here but it is awesome. Take a look vi athe link below. I myself LOVE being an aunt (and godmother) I truly believe it is the best of both worlds and I recently had my oldest niece (15) say that she wanted to grow up to be just like me!!!

Unknown said...

I've also encountered another aspect of being in the "aunt" role -- that when you do step in as a disciplinarian, you get LISTENED TO. Most of the time I'm the fun aunt figure, but if they cross a line and I call them on it, they KNOW they've really done something bad/inappropriate. It's not mom with her seemingly arbitrary rules. If I say something, it has meaning.