Once upon a time, I wanted to have four children. Two children later, and I am without a doubt done with the baby-making phase of my life. Of course, there are fleeting moments here and there when I feel the post-baby void, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I sometimes pine for a daughter, but I am happy with the size of my family. We are complete.
I’m also an aunt — and that is all kinds of awesome.
I have seven nieces and nephews, and there are all kinds of things I can do with them that I don’t get to do or wouldn’t do with my children. I don’t care about things like whether they are eating enough vegetables or if it’s past their bedtime. I don’t mind when they get messy or act goofy or do all those other things kids do that annoy the crap out of their own parents.
When you’re an aunt, you can spend a weekend watching movies while eating popcorn and candy and not worry at all about screen time limits or nutrition. You eagerly pull out the Play-Doh and finger paints and — gasp! — glitter.
When you’re an aunt, you gleefully make trips to Build-A-Bear and the American Girl store. You give loud, plastic toys for birthday gifts and splurge on those toys parents deem too extravagant. You also play Barbies. A lot.
Aunts get to spoil kids without actually worrying about whether they are being spoiled.
If you don’t have your own kids, as an aunt, you can take an active and meaningful role in the life of a child. You can be part of that all-important village — without dealing with the massive sleep deprivation and sassy teen back talk.
If you have kids, you can be silly and fun in a way that you aren’t always able to be with your own kids. Aunts get to have goofy names like Auntie and Kiki and Libby (even if your name is Michelle). Aunts are cool and fun, if for no other reason than because we aren’t the parent.
When you’re an aunt, you can let kids be kids in all their loud, annoying glory. Because aunts don’t need to worry about things like discipline and behavior. Aunts laugh at fart jokes instead of rolling their eyes and groaning. Aunts laugh when a toddler drops the F-bomb at the park instead of shushing them. Aunts laugh, period.
Aunts get hugs and squeals of delight. We get cards in the mail and recorded videos on our birthday. Aunts are trusted with secrets about boys and friends and who really broke the lamp in the living room. And aunts can share secrets too — about who their siblings were way back when before they became the parents their kids know now.
Aunts can be a trusted adult, a safe place, when a kid feels like they can’t talk to their own parents.
Being a parent is, without a doubt, one of the best and hardest things I have ever done. It is a great privilege, but also a great responsibility, and sometimes that responsibility can feel pretty heavy. But as an aunt, you diffuse a little of that heaviness while still enjoying all that childhood goodness and joy that comes with loving a child unconditionally.
There are all kinds of ways to bring children into our lives aside from being a parent, but being an aunt is one of the best.