I was an aunt for seven years before becoming a mother. I spent those years spoiling my oldest nieces and nephews as much as I could from far away — and then my kids were born and shit got real. I hope they remember how fun I was back then. I even had the profound privilege of watching one of my nephews come into the world and still had the guts to go through that experience myself five years later. I’ve watched them all grow up into awesome human beings, sometimes from afar, but they are always on my mind. And in my heart.
Being an aunt is awesome — sometimes even more awesome than being a parent because you get to feel all the joy and pride in those kids’ accomplishments, but you also get to send them back home to mom and dad at the end of the day.
Here are some of the many reasons why I love, love, love being an aunt:
1. You get to be the fun one.
Rules schmules. With Auntie Jo, my nieces and nephews get to have dessert for dinner, stay up way too late, get muddy, and cursing isn’t even frowned upon. I’m sure my sister and in-laws totally appreciate all of this, but when you’re an aunt, you get to do what you want.
2. But they can also come to you for advice.
Growing up is a hard frickin’ thing to do, and parents don’t always have the answers to delicate situations. Aunts can help you figure things out and be a safe space for your thoughts and feelings.
3. You get to snuggle them and then give them back.
There is a reason why I had never changed a poopy diaper until my own children were born. You get all the joys of “Oh, look, she has my nose!” and none of the “Oh, shit, she’s awake again.” It’s the perfect combination of love and no responsibility. (I know I’m going to love being a grandparent too.)
4. You can lend perspective to their parents.
You love those kids and you know them, but you are also a step away from them — putting you in the unique position of being able to provide some outside perspective when shit goes down.
5. You can give them perspective about their parents.
Chances are you grew up with their parents and might be able to tell your nieces and nephews why a certain thing might be very triggering for them, like lying, cheating, or stealing. Maybe your own parents went totally bonkers once when your sister snuck out of the house, so chances are, she’s going to flip when her kids pull the same stunt.
6. You get to be a different kind of role model.
You are probably seen as being just slightly cooler than their own parents because, well, they’re the parents. You can use this as an advantage, like, dude don’t do drugs cause I’m gonna tell you about that one time I did, and it did not go well.
7. They might tell you stuff that they won’t tell their parents.
Aunts are like Vegas — what you tell your aunts stays with your aunts (barring anything too serious because safety first).
8. You don’t have to be the responsible party.
Again, you have to make sure they are safe, but being an aunt means that, well, maybe if they stay out too late when their parents are out of town, nobody has to know all of the nitty-gritty details.
9. You can balance on the boundary of being their friend.
You’re probably older, have experienced some things, and can be that fun older person who can give good advice, but also still have fun.
10. If you’re lucky and/or have a death wish, you might get the chance to teach them how to drive.
“You have to stay on the right side of the road!” was shouted many times during the summer of 2016 when my oldest niece was learning to drive. She made her mom and dad too nervous, so guess who got to drive around with her? Me, her aunt. It was terrifying, but I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard.
So for you all of you awesome aunts out there, have fun with all those fabulous kiddos and get them all hopped up on sugar and cursing like a sailor, and then go ahead and give them back to their parents. Sorry, Sis.