Becoming an aunt for the first time both touched my heart and opened up the place where the new family member took up residence. It confirmed and strengthened a large part of my long-standing feelings about family as a whole, as well as giving me a new understanding of myself as an adult.
Like all relationships, being an aunt is a continuing process. I learn, I cry (not with the kid, I hold it in and let loose later), I laugh, I smile before I even know I’m doing so, I visit, I play, I run and I stop to look at flowers in the grass outside. I make up nicknames with lightning speed and my voice changes pitch when I praise.
Conversations with family have expanded to include this experience and I know for sure that they will feel the same way I do when we talk, with our individual perspectives chipping in. I am, in short, invested, and I care. You see your sibling, now a parent, in a new light, and as you observe them with respect and a full heart, you may get a glimpse of what it was like for your parents, now the newly minted grandparents, to care for you and your siblings before your memory began to form.
I have now become an aunt for a second time and as we say in the family, I’m immediately aware. Everything I knew my heart to do before has happened again, and it still feels new, infinite. There is room for everyone.
The most humbling part about this experience is that I keep thinking the children didn’t ask for an aunt who still cries during (well-acted) sad scenes in movies, to name just one example, who is obsessed with using gifs in all forms of chatting and texting, and loves to grab almost any kind of freebies just because they are free (take now, sort later!). In fact, they didn’t know one single thing about me until we met, just as I couldn’t know what they would be like until I saw them. But during that first-time meeting I knew that this was how it was supposed to be, then and there.
Acceptance as an aunt is not to be taken for granted. I feel strongly that everything that makes up my life, especially the parts connected to my ever-developing self-awareness, values, thoughts on what kind of person I want to be and how I treat family and friends – all this, so crucial already, takes on an added, life-affirming importance because of two growing people who will know what I’m up to, since we are included in each other’s lives.
I do want to be an example to myself, and if by doing so I will also contribute in a positive way to someone else watching me (in addition to going to their parents first) from their smaller height as their world gets bigger every day, that will be the best mutual gift that aunthood could give.