The day the pediatrician told me just how serious my breastfeeding problems really were, my aunt arrived into town to help out.
We had planned her trip so that she could meet the baby but until she got there I didn’t fully realize how crucial this visit was for me. My aunt immediately took control of the situation both emotionally and practically. She held both me and my daughter as I cried and cried. Her baby gift to me: as many sessions with the lactation consultant as I wanted. Other people could get me baby outfits and toys; she wanted to get me what I needed most at the time.
Being an aunt is a role that doesn’t get enough attention. We all spend so much time focusing on the role of mothers that sometimes we forget that there are many other people that influence our kids’ lives. Occasionally dads get mentioned, but what about those other adults that love our children dearly?
A few months back I read about Savvy Auntie, a website for “Aunties by Relation (ABR), Aunties by Choice (ABC), Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and all women who love kids.” This website demonstrates something that I’ve thought for some time: there is truly something special about aunts, especially those who don’t have their own kids to worry about. It’s like having a friend who is really smart and experienced or a parent without all of those messy issues. I feel so fortunate that I grew up with such a person in my life, my Aunt Susi.
Aunt Susi always bought me great gifts, not because they were expensive or extravagant, but because they were things that no one else was likely to buy for me. She bought me my first sweater from the Gap (when I was 12, that was the place to shop) and my first real makeup from a department store. When I was lonely, having moved to a new city, she sent a giant balloon bouquet that I couldn’t help but smile at. But more importantly, she was always there for me. Just as when she came to visit after I had my daughter, she got me through tribulations throughout my life: moving, job loss, breakups.
My daughter has two aunts, my husband’s sisters. The older one has her own family already; the younger one does not. I asked his youngest sister, Aunt Tamara, what she thought about being an aunt. “It’s my favorite role in life thus far,” she told me. “I love my nieces and nephew and love that I get to be around for all of the fun stuff.” She also told me how she loved shopping for them and then went to get her latest purchase, which she showed off to me and my daughter over Skype: “It’s a monkey bowl!”
My daughter pointed to the screen and said, “My bowl!”
“Well, it will be your bowl when you see Auntie Tamara,” I told her. I was glad that this gift was going over positively–Aunt Tamara had sent a giant penguin doll for Hanukkah and my daughter’s immediate action was “No, No, No!” as she ran in the other direction. Aunt Tamara was devastated; there was so much love and thought that went into the gift, as it was supposed to be a bigger version of my daughter’s favorite doll. I can now happily say that my daughter and “Guin” are friends. I hope my daughter can come to appreciate her aunt’s gifts as much as I appreciated mine.
“I also hope that one day my nieces will talk to me about their problems; you know, those things they don’t want to talk to their mom about,” Aunt Tamara continued. Right. This is what I loved most about my aunt: that I was able to talk to her about anything and get an adult perspective on it without my parents having to know. It’s sad to think that one day my daughter will not be running to me as mommy for everything but I’m glad to know there will be other adults around that she can trust. Aunt Tamara and my daughter blew each other kisses as we hung up the call.
I am so thankful that my aunt is such a big part of my life and feel lucky that my daughter gets to have her as a Great Aunt as well as two other loving aunts. Two decades later, that sweater from the Gap still sits in my closet as a keepsake. I know that I certainly don’t tell her enough how much I appreciate her. So to all of you with loving aunts in any definition of the term: let them know just how fortunate you are.