I love being an aunt. It’s where you have all the fun with the kids without any (most) of the responsibility.
A few weeks ago, I saw this absolutely lovely post by a blogger I follow on Facebook and it thrilled me to the core. She’d titled it, ‘To parent like a grandparent’.
Most of us become aunts/uncles before we become parents. That’s beautiful because it’s almost like the natural order of things. We see these delectably cute bundles in the hospital or when we go to visit a sister, brother or cousin and fall irreversibly in love with the way their tiny hearts capture our own.
Ever thought about it? It’s quite magical.
I was 23 when my sister-in-law had her daughter and I first laid eyes on her a year after she was born. The way she waddled around, blowing spit bubbles, tumbling over stuff and following me around like a cute puppy made my womb flip flop in glee. I’d just been married a little over a year so a kid was not really high on my priority list, but oh my God! That niece of mine came darn close to giving me all the maternal instincts in the world!
She lived abroad so I didn’t get to see her again until a few years later and by then, she’d grown into an impish little 4-year-old with a penchant for wrapping people around her little finger. She zeroed in on my husband as her partner in crime while I was the one she ran away from, since I’d been assigned the task of feeding her every meal.
What is it with kids and food?! I love eating! I wish my kid had half my appetite and more than half my weight.
Every evening, she’d wait impatiently by the door, looking towards the gate, waiting for the sound of V’s car and the minute she saw it, she’d whoop in glee and run to hug him. For her, Shailu Mami was fun but not quite as fun as her Mama (Uncle). Did I mention I still wasn’t a mom yet?
Watching that child, I’d forget every worry in the world. I’d put my arms around her and smother her with kisses as she giggled and struggled to escape from my tickles. I’d play the peacemaker between her and her mom, when she’d order her to finish her eggs. I’d whisper in her ear and dry her tears, explaining that her mom loved her very, very much. Together, we’d snuggle on the couch and watch cartoons, breaking into peals of laughter as Jerry outwitted Tom at every turn.
I remembered all of this when I read that post by Melissa because I realised I’d forgotten what it was to be just an aunt.
Today, being a mom and having been one for the last 10 years, I’ve allowed life to take over. I’m harried as I flit between schedules and orders. Every meal Gy takes is now something I watch with anxiety rather than enjoyment. Is she getting enough nutrients? Does she play enough? What if she doesn’t sleep the right amount?
And of course, the most overwhelming dread of all:
What if I’m not good enough as a mom?
I’m busy making checklists and ticking them off on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and planning for the long term. Not all the time, mind you. But some days are more troubling than others, especially since she’s a tween now and things do appear more challenging than when she was a toddler in diapers.
When I read that post, it all came flooding to me in a rush of memories. I’ve also seen the way my own sister, Sindu, bonds with my daughter. When Gy was born, she fell in love with her.
She’d travel across town every night to be by her side, after a long, hard day at work. She’d stay up nights, putting her to sleep, watching over her, changing her diapers and consoling her during the colicky phase. She’s taken more photographs and videos of my daughter than I have! She is kind, unhurried, compassionate and loving. Gy responds to her every single time.
The same is true of me with her kids- my darling niece and my squishy, adorable nephew. I’m always stepping in to defend them from the mom who disciplines them. Gy gets the identical treatment from my sister when I am parenting.
It’s no wonder kids love their aunts and uncles , maybe a wee bit more than they do their parents. Think about it. We’re so busy setting them on the right path, telling them what to do that we forget one important thing: Love.
I’m not saying we indulge their every whim and fancy. I don’t advocate free rein to their tantrums. I’m against permissive parenting.
But, I think if we were to parent a little more from the space of love, then we’d learn to relax our discipline and understand their challenges.
If we allowed ourselves to be empathetic instead of authoritarian, they’d listen to us more.
If we hugged, cuddled, kissed and embraced them more, we’d both be better off.
In other words, if we were to parent more like aunts, I think this parenting thing may, just may, become a tad easier on us all.