Saturday, May 7, 2011

On Mother’s Day... why we’re grateful for being an Auntie!

I used to get sad on Mother’s Day. Not for myself, but for those women who desperately wanted to have kids and couldn’t. I always felt today must be a hard day for them. Me? I’ve never really thought about having children seriously, perhaps that’s because I haven’t met the person I want to share my eggs with. Who knows? Truth is, while not a mother per se, I do have children I love with every fibre of my being.

I adore my nieces and nephews and am grateful I am their ‘Auntie Anita’. There’s something magical about hearing those words from the ‘little people’ in my family. Although the ‘little people’ are shooting up right before my eyes. I can’t believe how tall kids get so quickly. See, even the Auntie notices these things. I also notice how much fun it is taking them to the movies, or for a cruise in my car with the roof down and the music blaring. I notice the strength and warmth in their cuddles and how special a hug is when I don’t have to initiate it.

I’ve been travelling for work for twenty years and I’ve always missed my family. In recent times – sorry Mum and siblings – I’ve missed the ‘little people’ more than anything / anyone else. I get so much joy when I see them. Perhaps it’s because our meetings are short sessions; a meal at Mum’s / Grandma’s, or an afternoon at the movies. And then we say goodbye.

My time with them is also joyful because I don’t have to deal with the tantrums and tears, when those episodes start, I just leave, literally. Like just now: Nephew #4 (in age) was about to hit Nephew #3 with a wooden train, so Nephew #3 started to cry before the strike even took place. Train was taken from Nephew #4 and he started crying too. ‘Auntie Anita’ simply cried: ‘I’m off, I’ll be back tonight, Mum.’ Quick hugs, kisses and 'I love yous' and I was out of there before the tears had even stopped.

It doesn't mean I'm only there for the fun and games of course. I see two of my nephews every day, so we are all part of each other's daily grind - the highs and lows, the plateaus, the school and work dramas - the everyday life cycle. I love nothing more than to yarn with them about their day. I'm a nosy bugger at times, much like a parent I guess, gotta know every movement! But I don't have to do the 27/4 slog of a parent, and I admire mothers and fathers who manage the hardest job in the world.

Today though, I want to pay tribute to all those women who may not have given birth to children but have loads of love and life experiences with their own ‘little people’... the good, the bad, and the ugly tantrums. And to help me celebrate Auntie-dom, some friends have offered their own thoughts and gratefuls on the esteemed position of ‘being Auntie’.

My gorgeous and very deadly agent Pippa Masson, writes:

‘Being an Auntie is a wonderful gift. You can be fun, full of cuddles and buy the ‘I love New York’ jumpsuit because that’s something only an Auntie would do! Seeing your brother, sister or in-laws in your nephews or nieces is possibly one of the most beautiful things of all. It’s a brand new version of some of your favourite people in the world.’

My coach Geraldine Star who piles on the sugary sweets (wish she was MY Aunty!) says she loves Auntie-duties because:
• You don't have to live with your nieces and nephews but you can have a lot of fun spoiling them
• You can give them time eg playing cards, games and love eg lots of hugs and go to places you have no excuse to go to eg museums, zoo and have a lot of fun.

Elvis-loving, cocktail drinking, super strategist Ms Michelle Nicol says:
Being an Auntie has two big payoffs - I get to hang inside my sister's world, which is a warm and cosy spot. And I get to have a uniquely close friendship with the kids that is quite different to their parents.
As a PS, Michelle adds something that made me laugh: "And the kids never block me on facebook. Ha!"

Author of The Mag Hags and world traveller... still on the road, my mate Lollie Barr says:
People say I don't have kids. Not true. I'm Auntie Lollie to so many children around the world both through blood ties and love ties. Being an Auntie is a privileged position. I straddle the world between being a grown up but not being a Mum, so kids relate to me on a different level from their parents. As I don't have my own children, I have an abundance of energy and love to share with them, hopefully infusing them with positivity and an ability to recognise their own uniqueness and special talents.

A wonderful Aunty – and a staunch friend who looks fabulous in red! – Robynne Quiggin says:

I am grateful for being an Auntie because...
• I am able to share in the ups and downs - even if its from a distance,
• I see them grow and change, and to be a small part of that
• I sometimes think you know what's best for them and find out you're wrong!!
• I have a laugh with them at different things
• I spoil them a bit
• I back their Mum up!!
• I love them and am so proud of them - and their parents who do the long yards!

Blogger and public speaker... and serious foodie (which is why I really like her!), Mel Kettle writes:
I’m grateful for being an Auntie for so many reasons!
My niece is 5, nephew is 2 and I have lots of honorary nieces and nephews. I love the cuddles, sleepovers and special times we get to share whether mummy and daddy are there or not. I've never wanted to have kids and I didn't realise how much fun it could be being an auntie until my niece was born. I get to spoil them, cherish them, love them, and can hand them back when they are whiney, have dirty nappies or have had enough of being with Auntie Mel! I love that as they get older I can teach them things that their parents might not necessarily want them to know and I can be there for them when they need someone to talk to.

But mostly I'm grateful for being an auntie because of the joy they bring into my life.

My super cool friend and publicist, Renee Senogles loves being an Auntie too:
I am grateful for being an aunt because I can be a part of these little lives in such a positive way without having to be the bad guy, like a parent. I get to do all the fun things which they adore, buy them special gifts and there is nothing better than those times when they cling on to you with their hugs and look up to you with those beaming faces that tell you just how much they love you! It's a special love that I am so grateful to experience... X

Author of The Fortunes of Ruby White Lia Weston writes on being an Auntie!
Ever since I saw Auntie Mame I have wanted to be an Auntie. I want to be That Auntie—the one who has a vast collection of hats, a scandalous past, a string of artistic ex-lovers, and a signature shade of lipstick. So far I’ve got three of the four. (Discretion dictates that I don’t say which one’s missing.) As my husband and I are without kidlets, I’m privileged enough to be an honorary Auntie to several of my friends’ children, plus I have an adorable Goddaughter. (Technically, she’s a Godlessdaughter, but her parents were kind enough to overlook this fact.) Getting older has made me much more aware of the screeds of information I have yet to pass on to willing, innocent ears. To whom can I leave my collection of eclectic cookbooks? Who will treasure my Black Books DVDs when I am gone? Won’t someone want to know how to pick the lock on a 1974 Volvo passenger door? Et cetera.

In all seriousness, I have very fond memories of two adopted aunties to whom I ran when my problems were too embarrassing—or frightening—to tell my mother about. These women always took me seriously, never told me I was over-reacting or making things up, and for that they have my enduring love. As they were adults I could trust at times when I thought grown-ups were a strange and deceitful race, so I hope that I’m allowed to be in my friends’ children’s lives as they grow up. I secretly cross my fingers for the day that one of them rings to ask if they can stay for the weekend because “mum and dad suck”, so I can spend two days stuffing them full of chocolate and misplaced maternal affection.

Besides, if I can’t regale my own children with stories about the time I snuck into the zoo and drank gin by the spider monkey enclosure, by golly I can bore other people’s children to death with it.

Finally, I know many of you reading this will also be ‘The Fabulous Auntie’ that every family has and wants and needs. Please tell us why YOU love being an Auntie.

Happy Auntie Day!


Unknown said...

Hi Anita -
Well I'm not an Auntie - just an Uncle but will tell you that a lot of your post applies to us as well. I linked to it on my blog post today as well as sharing it on Facebook. Enjoy your day.

Unknown said...

Being an Uncle (or an Auntie) means you can break the rules and your nieces and nephews will just remember you for the fun you gave them. I remember taking one of my nieces and nephews for ice cream once. They were dressed in their best clothes and there was this place that had soft serve ice cream. Any of their four sizes were the same price. Needless to say Uncle Peter purchased the largest size for each of the kids! The look of joy on their faces (and the look of horror on the faces of their parents) made it all well worth while!

Dr Anita Heiss said...

Hi Peter - Of course, I did think about the Uncles too... and will do something on Father's Day for the men! I agree, we get to buy all the 'naughty' food without guilt or repercussions for the sugar hit. It really is a fun job, isn't it?
Much peace and thanks for the link re your blog... It's a great read, I just checked it out.
PS Happy Uncle's Day!

No one said...

Here's to Aunties! My children don't have one (I'd be glaring at my brother right now, if he were here), so we make do with "Honourary Aunties". I'd love to be an Aunty one day, but the Grumpy Old Man (aka my husband) is an only child, and my brother is a confirmed bachelor, and yet I live in [probably vain] hope!

Emily Paull said...

Excellent idea. You sound like the kind of Aunty that my Aunty is!

Lisa said...

Hi Anita,
Thanks for the great post. I wrote about being a PANK (Professional Aunt No Kids) on my blog a little while ago.

Being an aunt adds to my world – not in a filling a void sense- but in that sense of allowing me the freedom to give pure uncomplicated care-giving love.


Laurene said...

Oh this is lovely. I get to be' cool auntie', 'no stress auntie' and sometimes, just to terrify my brother, I can 'teach them all the naughty things auntie'. The latter being worth it's weight in gold - of course!

I'll also get to enable some of the "love to do's" that most parents don't have the spare cash for after paying for school fees, ballet classes and footy boots. And I love that - that I can budget and plan to send them away - to the zoo, a farm, or on an African safari, so they have a magical shared experience I know my brother and sister-in-law would love to be able to give their kids.

Like they say - it takes a village to raise a child...

Dr Anita Heiss said...

Dear Sif - Honorary Aunties are great. I'm one of those too. I'm your your bother will come around one day... surely he loves being an Uncle :)
Peace, Anita

Dear Elimy - thank you. I am sure that's a compliment! Cheers, Anita

Hey Lisa! I love PANK (Professional Aunt No Kids) that is fantastic. I am now officially a PANK! Thank you for confirming that identity for me :) Peace, Anita

Dear Laurene - will you be MY Auntie please?????? :) Thanks for the comment, made me smile. Anita

Sara Quokka said...

I'm an auntie through connections of both blood and spirit, and the young ones in my life are mostly grown and AWOL. Its special when they have kids of their own and want you back in their lives for that. I've seen some of the worry that my friends have gone through with their kids - girls especially - as they hit that risk taking age between 15-25 - and I'm so grateful I've never had to be the parent of a kid that age who's doing crazy things.

One of the high points of my life was when niece 3#, now grown, looked at my life partner and I and made an observation on how much she likes the way that we interact and work out our problems. How we are respectful of each other, and how we banter and bicker and laugh and talk things out. She'd grown up in a single parent family and seen a lot of conflict in the adults around her and she said we were an inspiration to her.

Funny, but 15 years ago when she was little and I was buying her and her tiddas ice-cream and taking them to the movies and telling them for the third time to get in the bath or the TV would be going OFF - you're not really thinking about the way they watch you and make decisions about who they want to be and how they want to live.

Its so important for kids to have other adults in their lives who can add something else to the mix. That moment really pointed out to me that there's such sage truth in what a mental health worker once told me in reference to me stressing about my own family 'Just be a good role model.'

Although the other bit of sage advice I had on the matter came from a girlfriend, on a fridge magnet she gifted to me - 'If you can't be a good example, you'll have to be a terrible warning.'

Radhika said...

Being an Auntie is hugely satisfying! I cried when I saw my nephew in his first school uniform, laughed out loud when tried on his first grown up underwear! It was my joy to have him do a reading at my wedding and teach him to dance to "Blame it on the Boogie" when he was two. And now he is heading to medical school! Another was so excited I had come to visit that he screeched while standing in the bath and was over the moon that I threw of my suit jacket to finish bathing him. These kids make me grateful everyday and proud to be their Aunt. Every one of their milestones is special to me and it is a blessing to share their lives with them. And those uninitiated hugs...well there's nothing quite like the love in that embrace!