Parenting like an Aunt

Parenting like an Aunt

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.

*Image credit: Sharshnom via Shutterstock

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25 thoughts on “Parenting like an Aunt

  1. Aww, that was cute!
    I don’t know what sort of aunt I am. You need to ask Parth . But he treats me like his friend- a friend his age! I help him with his studies (a time when I am at my strictest) but at the same time when I am explaining him stuff or showing him.where he went wrong in his work, he has this habit of throwing his arm over my shoulder and answering me as if I was his buddy!! His mom loves this chemistry we share.And at the same time I am the only one in the family he is scared of, and I am the only one he tells most of his secrets! We do have a funny equation which I hope stays the same. But, let’s see…!

  2. Totally agree with you. When my sister had her daughter she was in the same city. We all experienced her pregnancy and then the birth of my bundle of joy. I was working fresh after MBA back then. What a joy it was to be with her. She used to be at our place as sis joined her work back. Si every evening back from office, the little toddler welcomed me with big smiles, coos and a dirty diaper. I loved her to pieces. I still do. She is all of 17 now and still feels like my first born. Being an aunt is a blessing. The same works for my sister. She is an amazing aunt to my children. Such fun!
    Rachna Parmar recently posted What is the Optimum Screen Time for Children?My Profile

    1. I remember rushing across town in June this year when my sister delivered her baby boy. Six hours in traffic but everything vanished when I saw and held that amazing fellow in my arms. What treasures are our nephews and nieces to be sure. I know what you mean about them being like your first born

  3. You have made me think Shailaja! this is truly a different angle and most of us have never thought in your point of view. Now whan I think of my aunts and uncles, I really can feel that same affection returning and all those times when I used to run to them for the extra chocolates and gossips which I would never have thought of sharing with my parents. You have made me think .
    Menaka Bharathi recently posted Mommy Moments and Me – My Bundles Of Joy-A Blog Hop For MomsMy Profile

  4. That was great Shailaja! You reminded me of all the love I got from my adoring aunts and uncles.And of course,the love I feel for my nephews and nieces.Yes,mom-kid relationship has more strictness in it.That is why kids love uncles/aunts more than their own parents.

  5. That’s true.. I remember from my childhood days I had his aunt of mine who was spend hours teaching me how to knit and sew. She had a sort of magical with that would drag me to her house often. Years later my kids are now drawn towards my elder sister who seems to have a similar effect on them.

    The key reason as u have mentioned is relaxed disciplining. Which as parents we often forget.

  6. Totally agree with you. I got a niece when I was 20. If a holiday comes, a free eve, to declutter my mind or any reasons I’m at her side. She was my happy-world. I guess, we just don’t think about parent with them, we are just the wild aunts, who would teach them to be wild, adventurous, bold and fierce. And they love us more than they respect us.

  7. That was cute and I was nodding all along. I have a godchild who I absolutely adore. She was in my arms before she landed on her Mum’s. When this little girl is at our place, her Mum is playing the Mum and I play the grandmum. We eat things out of boxes like sugar and jaggery and we wash hands standing in the kitchen sink. I am going to share this with my friend and ask her to go easy 🙂
    Parul Thakur recently posted The OCD I don’t suffer fromMy Profile

  8. A post straight from the heart, Shailaja. And don’t ever doubt yourself as a Mom. You are doing right and you’re doing great.
    I am a proud Aunt of twin nieces, and I have realised that I can be and Aunt and love them as one, but they go back to they parents at the end of the day. Parents deal with kids 24*7 which is why as an Aunt or Sister I never question, or break rules set by my sister.
    So continue being the cool parent you are:)

    1. You must be among the few people who thinks I am a cool parent. But I hope I am. I hope I’m the kind who Gy will confide in when things get tough, when life gets overwhelming and when she needs a hug. I hope with all my heart.

  9. Aw that was the sweetest post. It’s the warmest feeling to watch my sister bonding with my kids – my favourite people in the world. Though we have had our share of arguments when she goes overboard in pampering them but then that’s what aunts are for. I’m glad the kids have her and it leaves me free to discipline them the way I want to. I think that balance is perfect for the kids.
    Obsessivemom recently posted Notes from a happy momMy Profile

  10. I’ve often found it interesting that kids seem to get along better with their aunts and uncles than their parents. But then again, if aunts and uncles were around all the time, maybe they’d parent like parents 🙂
    I reckon a lot of things about parenting is finding that balance of wanting to do everything our way and maybe some of it being a friend.
    Interesting perspective though.
    Sid recently posted Begin AgainMy Profile

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