I’m a proud Aunt to 11 nieces and nephews ages 3 weeks-almost 16 years. These cuties, and all my friends kids, bring so much joy to my life. With so many years of experience under my belt, I feel as though I’m qualified to offer some advice to those of you new Aunt’s out there on how to take your Aunt-ing to the next level. These are my tips on how to be a super Aunt.
1. Listen and play along: Kids have a lot of randomness going on in their minds. Often times, it takes a loooooong time for them to express their ideas. Sometimes parents have time to sit and wait for their kids to tell them all about the pirate ship they imagined in the backyard, and how it eats flowers and the captain is a koala bear and how its made of candy, but most of the time parents have to worry about nap times, and feeding schedules, and making sure their house is clean and safe for their family. This is where Aunts come in. While Mom is washing the lunch dishes, and putting the laundry away, sit and listen to the spew of imagination coming out of their little mouths. Ask what kind of candy the pirate ship is made out of. Ask the koala bear’s name. If the kids are older, listen to what’s going on with their friends, and will school. Mom will be glad to have uninterrupted time time to plow through her chores, and the kids will be happy to have a captive audience.
2. Bend the Rules: It’s no secret that kids need structure, but every once in a while its ok the bend the rules. For consistency’s sake, parents need to uphold the rules of the house, but as an Aunt, its perfectly ok to take some liberties. I let the kids have 2 cupcakes. I let the kids skip their nap so we can go to the movies. I buy the kids the lego set their parents said no to. I let them wear their pajamas to the park. Bending the rules makes for special bonding time, and sets the stage for life long memories.
3. Honor all requests: Read the book again….and again. Play the dance video game. Let them style your hair. Play with the train set for hours. Spin them around and around and around. As an adult, I have to say no way too often in my life. Saying yes to all these innocent requests not only grows the bond between my nieces and nephews and I, but it helps to soften my old soul in the process.
4. Never lose your patience: Remember, you are not a parent. You don’t get to spend all your time with these little ones which is good and bad at the same time. Sure you don’t get to watch them grow up day to day, but you also don’t have to deal with all the frustrations that come along with daily parenting. If kids do choose to act up during the short, precious time you have together, you can’t lose your patience. It’s way easier for an Aunt to keep perspective on a situation then a parent who is constantly engrossed in it day after day, so laugh it off, stay calm, and take a more lighthearted approach.
5. Create a tradition: When I was a kid my Aunt would take us shopping when we would make our annual visit to her house in Pennsylvania. I’m 33 years old and still remember these trips. I’m working on building traditions with my nieces and nephews as well. Currently I send all kids age 5 and over $1 for every year that they are old plus one to grow on for every birthday. It’s not much, but it lets them know that I care about their birthday, and I know how old they are (not an easy thing to keep track of with so many!) I take my nephew Luke on a special date every time I visit him. I’m pen pals with my niece Campbell. I’m working on building these traditions with each and every one of them. When you only get to visit maybe once a year like I do, it’s important to make that time count.
Being and Aunt is the absolute best! All the fun and none of the responsibility. I hope that years from now my nieces and nephews think as highly of me as I do of them, and I hope that we can keep our bond growing in the right direction for the rest of our lives.