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Sorcha Blaine
Sorcha Blaine

    Aunt Misbehavin’ 
    By Sorcha Blaine
    The last 40 years have seen a lot of inventions: color televisions, birth control pills, microwave ovens, aunts and uncles.

    It’s not that aunts and uncles didn’t exist before 1960, but they had different job descriptions then. They were mothers and fathers, as well. They had their own kids to look after and worry about and take on vacations and spend money on. Of course they cared about their nieces and nephews but the relationship was based on proximity rather than choice.

    Now all that’s changed.

    These days a lot of women (including me) and men are opting not to have children. We don’t feel we have the patience to address the full-time needs of a cat much less a child. Or perhaps we’re just lazy, self-absorbed and want our sun-washed decks to remain Fisher-Price-free. In any case, we’ve got no kids.

    But we’ve got a few extra hours a week.

    And we’ve got a little bit of money.

    And we’ve got a big selection of relatives.

    And those relatives love it when we take their kids out.

    I love it, too.

    I pick them up clean: freshly scrubbed, hair combed, eager for a day with their Auntie.

    I bring them back a few hours later: chocolate stains on their clothes, scratching fresh mosquito bites, cranky from their sugar crash.

    “Here you go,” I say, handing off my nephew to my sister, “we had a great day! Same time next week.” And I’m gone.

    My sister has had the day to herself.

    My nephew has gone someplace special.

    And I get to be all glow-y and maternal for a specific, limited period of time. (I think I mentioned above about being self-absorbed.)

    To quote Martha Stewart (not a Boomer but she’s done a lot of outreach work with Boomers): “It’s a good thing.”

    And the very best part of this very good thing is that as an aunt or an uncle, we’re not limited by expectations of what we can or should do with the kids.

    Parents have to worry about maintaining discipline.

    Grandparents can love unconditionally.

    Child-free aunts and uncles, though - and I mean those of us who came along after 1960 - have the opportunity to define ourselves and our relationship in a brand new way. I prefer the “Auntie Mame” model. I send them silk kimonos from Chinatown for Christmas. I demonstrate the art of walking barefoot on a public sidewalk without stepping in anything nasty. I argue with cabdrivers. I gossip about celebrities. I purposefully aim to embrace ideas and actions that they may not be exposed to, otherwise. My hope is that it will widen their circle of comfort about themselves and others. It will appeal to those parts within that don’t fit quite right just yet - those same parts that may worry their parents and which their grandparents try to overlook.

    Around me, no matter what, they’re safe, they’re loved. But they’re also damn well going to be entertained because I don’t like to be bored, either.

    And when I bring them back a few hours later - chocolate stains on their clothes, scratching fresh mosquito bites, cranky from their sugar crash - they’re smiling.

Women's Editor Archive Columns.
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