Underappreciated? Giving Aunties and Uncles a Bligh
Last Sunday, I jokingly told my mother that I was too old to have children. She didn’t think it was funny.
Like most mothers, she looks forward to the day I’ll give her a grandchild, and when I feel particularly mischievous and tell her, “but you already have grans” or “check yuh oder chirren”, she then asks, “Who are you going to leave stuff behind for?” My answer is simple. My nieces and nephews.
I’ve got a clan of five, young Mc Intoshs, and I love them dearly. I actually think I deserve a prize for bess auntie. Even my one-year-old niece gets excited when she sees a photo of me… and I’m not around. Aunty Karel is definitely a celebrity in their world. Which got me thinking. Mommies and daddies get all the props, but what about us aunts and uncles, especially the younger ones? The older heads get automatic respect off of age, but we count too. So I started counting the ways.
1. Unsung heroes and die-hard supporters
Most of us have a favourite uncle or aunt, who goes out of their way to support us. At 30, I still call my Uncle Robbie when my Internet crashes or I need help with something technical. That’s his area of expertise, chatting with him is always fun, and more importantly, I know that when I call him, he drops everything and comes to my assistance, even if I’m 50 miles away.
Aunties and uncles are kinda like superheroes. Besides the obvious rite of passage called babysitting, they clean diapers, provide the necessary hugs when a baby, child, or teenager needs comfort or support, even into the adult years, and bring the feel-good factor on a constant basis… with a healthy dose of discipline. Kind of like how Spiderman is a nice middleground between the serious Batman and playful Flash, they’re the friendly hero who’s approachable, they always have your back, they can get you out of impossible situations, and they’re the positive, support system that fits squarely between parent status and friend (random… I know, but you get my point).
2. They create better parents
That should really be, nieces and nephews prepare us for parenthood, which hopefully helps to make us better parents, but I just had to make aunts and uncles sound awesome (yeah, I’m biased). Seriously though, if you’re a constant in your niece or nephew’s life, you get a more realistic picture about what it really takes to raise a child, and how demanding it can be. Maybe that’s why my biological clock needs batteries!
I’ve grown up with babies in my house. I know what it’s like to lose sleep, become way too familiar with baby poop, and cry when you drop them off at the nursery, while they scream as if you’re handing them over to a family of cobeaux.
If you’re like me, you’ve been followed into the toilet, and had your eyelids pulled apart, in your sleep, while a child excitedly says, “Aunty, get up; I want to play”, at 3 in the morning… after they’ve kicked you in the ribs the whole night. Then there’s who doesn’t want to eat their food, who’s crying because they don’t want to bathe, who wakes up early every Saturday, but has a serious case of dropsy the week you have to dress them and drop them to school, and who locked your Blackberry, trying to figure out the password on their own (these tech-savvy kids).
Thankfully, when they’re just beginning to make you crave being stuck in an elevator on a planet called Ape, you can send them home to their parents, promising that they can spend another epic two weeks with you… when Elmo changes his fur, and gets a mohawk.
Being an aunt or uncle is not just an act of love; it’s service to humanity.
3. The national economy owes them big time
When my first niece was born in September 2000, I went crazy that Christmas. I bought clothes, toys, you name it. And years later, I still do the same for each of my possee. Maybe that’s why I can hardly afford to buy gifts for anyone else.
Aunts and uncles are much more willing to spend their discretionary income on their nieces and nephews, partly because they just love to spoil them, and partly, to fulfil their own parental instincts. If you were to count how much money you’ve spent on an annual basis in gifts, food, trips to the mall, cinema tickets to every animated film, Christmas concert tickets, gas money zooming cross-country, and clothes, you’d see that Winston Dookeran should be thanking each and every one of you for your contribution to the national economy. Of course, no decent aunt and uncle would count how much money they’ve spent on their nieces and nephews. #justsaying
4. Parent-child negotiators
Remember what I said about unsung heroes and die-hard supporters before? Well, aunts and uncles are also a bridge for communication.
“I feel like I’m the voice of reason sometimes. Granted my nieces are teenagers now, but when their mom or my mom says no, I can negotiate for them.”
Coming from my friend Toya, I’m sure many aunts and uncles can relate to this statement. Especially when kids get older, there are some things they just won’t discuss with their parents. Like Toya, aunts and uncles speak both languages – the child’s and the parents’ – and help them to understand each other. Aunts and uncles fill the role of adults who children can chat with and look up to.
As my friend Aisha says, “Aunts and Uncles are sorta like parents too”, and it’s high time that someone gave us a bligh. You don’t have to create a ‘mini-me’ to get props for raising the nation’s children. With all the good that you do, there’d be a gaping hole in a child’s life, if you shunned your duties. Yeah, we’re not there 24 hours, but we’re there. So, let’s hear it for the aunties and uncles too!
Image courtesy iStockphoto.com.