I get to be an aunt again!
This time I won’t look like a teen mom whenever I take my future niece/nephew out.
I was thirteen when my nephew was born. It may seem young, but I was begging my sister for one since I was about four so I was ready. It’s a strange but pretty great age to gain a niece or nephew. Side note: the gender neutral term is nibling, but it never caught on. The great thing about becoming an aunt at 13 is that you’re old enough to not be a playmate, but young enough to have a more relaxed relationship. My sister has four siblings around my age, so the shorter age gap is relatively normal for my nephew.
I started babysitting when I was twelve, so by the time my nephew was around, I was comfortable with taking care of babies. I liked having authority over someone and was proud of my ability to calm him down or not give in when he was upset that his mom left the room. I felt special – I was the only one out of my friends to be an aunt and it made me feel more mature than the rest of the group. I loved having a baby in the family, especially one that I felt like was mine. While my little cousins, only a few years older than him, were split evenly among so many other family members, I felt like I got to be first in line when my nephew came into the room because I was his only aunt.
Being a young aunt and uncle was good for my brother and me. When we went on vacations, we would always have a special outing with my nephew with just the three of us. My brother would drive us to mini-golf, or to grab pizza, and we always had a blast. Besides loving the fun of the outings, it taught us responsibility. We were responsible for making sure my nephew behaved in public settings and had authority to take him wherever we wanted, which helped us practice restraint. Though my nephew definitely benefited from our young age as well. Our version of “a little treat” was making a mud pie with every candy we could find on it, or grabbing a waffle cone after an already indulgent dinner, because we were still kind of kids too and wanted to go a little crazy. We behaved more like grandparents – unable to say no because… well, why say no? I remember my nephew on vacation looking at me after finishing a slice of a mud pie that had to have been 10,000 calories per slice and saying, “Aunt Bird… I don’t feel too good. This was too much.” In my defense, my nephew was skinny as hell and chose to eat healthy things so the mud pie seemed harmless. As my nephew grew, I enjoyed the age gap even more. I understood his language (to a certain extent) and felt like we can communicate on a closer level because he’s like “Oh, she’s with it. She gets it.” Especially when I worked at Apple. That gave me a sort of golden ticket to “getting it” because his world revolved around iPod Touches. As he became a preteen, I tended to enjoy pushing my sister to allow my nephew to do certain things we were allowed to do at that age, like watch South Park, to earn some brownie points. Now, I just name drop comedians that I saw to earn them.
Not everything is great with a shorter age gap. When you’re a college student, you’re not the most in touch person in the world. I can count on one hand the amount of times I sent my nephew a birthday gift and would usually compensate with a more generous Christmas gift. I always took pride in being his aunt, but it wasn’t until recent years that I really started to understand that I really was his aunt. Not an older cousin, or babysitter, but aunt. I’m starting to look more toward the excellent example my own aunts set on how to be a more mature and thoughtful aunt. I no longer have the excuse of being young and selfish for being absent half of the time. The two of us have a really special bond, but I tend to be better in person than long distance. And seeing as how there’s a small chance we’ll ever live less than four hours apart, it’s something that I need to work on.
So now, 15 years after I became an aunt the first time around, I’ll be an aunt again. This time at a socially “normal” age. With the announcement of my sister in law’s pregnancy last night came some reflection around what I’ll do differently this time around. The answer is… nothing really.
With high school and college out of the way, and my family being more central to my life than my friends, I’m sure I’ll be able to spend more time with my future nibling than I was with my nephew as a teenager. I know that I won’t forget birthdays. My nephew taught me how to be an aunt, and the combination of my age back then, and my age now, seems to round out the role. I’m still going to feed this child a mud pie so sweet they will choose to stop eating it themselves, but will also understand the nutritional importance of not doing it every chance I get. When the kid gets to the ripe preteen age, I will initiate them into the Taylor family by watching South Park, even if it is against the will of their parents and grandparents. I’m sure my sister and nephew will join – though my nephew will be in his mid-twenties and probably touring with his band.
One big difference is that I now know the things that I love sharing with the younger Taylor generation. I can’t wait to read this kid to sleep when we go to Cooperstown each year. I’ll try and hijack my brother and sister in law’s Red Sox/Yankees feud and convince my nibling that cubbies are too cute to not be their favorite baseball team. I failed with my nephew, but my sister worked for the Orioles and the two of them have too much Baltimore pride to veer off the tracks, but I’ll succeed this time around. I look forward to the days mom and dad want a night out in Cooperstown and Aunt Bird gets to take this kid on some sort of adventure.
Most of all, I’m excited that this kid gets to call my brother and sister in law their parents. My brother is one of my favorite people in the world, and as his sister, I can say that I’ve seen the best of him and have been on the receiving end of the worst of him. And the worst of him is basically that he’s a Red Sox fan, so it’s not all that bad. I know that he and my sister in law are going to be incredible parents, and that this kid is going to have one hell of an extended family.
Aunt Bird, part 2 coming in late October.