Lifestyle

Why I'm So Grateful For My Kids' Uncle And Godfather

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Long before I could imagine marriage, the number one guys in my life were my brother and my best friend — though it wasn’t always that way.

I wasn’t too keen on being an older sister when my mom told me she was pregnant with my brother. And I spend the first decade of his life making his life suck.

The relationship I have with my best friend started somewhat in reverse. He was fiercely competitive in the classes we shared, and he often made snide comments about me under his breath.

With time, though, I realized my brother wasn’t all bad; he made a good partner in crime. Similarly, my former adversary realized that though we’re both smart, we had different areas of interest — he was much more inclined towards math and science than I was. And instead of teasing me, he started helping me study.

And when things improved, each of them became invaluable to me. So naturally, I expected each of them to develop their own personal relationship with my kids.

But nothing could have prepared me for the impact these guys have on my children in their roles of uncle and godfather. And through them, I’ve learned that you don’t have to be a biological parent to play a vital role in caretaking.

In a time where there are many lies about black men, particularly as it relates to fatherhood, their presence is somewhat revolutionary. Through them, both gender- and racially-based stereotypes are being challenged — and I can’t imagine loving either of them more than I already do.

My best friend is probably the most emotionally intelligent man that I’ve ever met. He’s a shoulder to cry on, a voice of wisdom, and one of my biggest cheerleaders. His support is as pure as it is personalized. It’s an honor to watch as he passes those qualities on to my kids and observe the ways he complements the emotional gaps present in our communication styles.

It’s obvious that his emotional availability will teach my son that he’s not restricted to anyone else’s depictions of Black manhood. And I can easily see him serving as a translator for my daughter, there to explain how to read the difference between what people say and what people do.

He’s not perfect, and he doesn’t have to be. Much of his appeal is that he shows up unapologetically and authentically in every space that he enters. There’s a silent power about him that each of the children can grow from, simply by being in close proximity.

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If they are anything like their parents, my children will be stubborn. They need his example of a fluid perspective to remind them that there is nothing wrong with admitting when you are wrong and being willing to adjust your world views after acquiring new information.

My brother is more of an alternative example of black maleness. Like my husband, he is interested in anime. Growing up, he was often ridiculed for this interest, but he’s a beacon of kinetic power and knowledge. We’re just waiting for his opportunity to use his wealth of experiences to improve the world.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s younger. Age gaps can make parents feel inaccessible to children and since he’s a little younger than my husband and me, I think they’ll know they can talk to him when times get rough. They enjoy having him around because he makes them smile and he appears “cool.” But with time they’ll see his biggest selling point is the way he shows up unconditionally for those he loves.

His visits are a breath of fresh air. He reminds me not to take myself so seriously and he doesn’t have to be directed to know when to fill in the gaps while helping with the kids. Each time I see him, he reminds me how thoughtful and loving he is, despite a world that seems determined to rob him of his authenticity.

I’m equally relieved when I return home and see my best friend. He provides gifts (often STEAM-based) for holidays and never lets a trip home pass without coming to visit us. And he already shows how determined he is to make sure the kids keep learning in pursuit of their best selves.

I find it amazing that each of them has established their own unique relationship with the children without overshadowing the relationship my kids have with their own father. Each plays a different role, but has equal impact. My brother and my best friend understand there are unique ways for them to bond with my children, but they have no need to overshadow the relationship they have with their father.

I’m very grateful that my husband is here as an active and present father for our children. But as my kids’ father, one could argue that his presence is owed to us. On the other hand, my children’s uncle and godfather come to their lives under different circumstances. Neither of them owes my children anything, yet they have made the decision to give so much.

There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude I feel towards their selfless participation in our lives. And through the years, I look forward to seeing the ways my children’s lives are changed for the better by having them around. It means the world to me that two key figures from some of my best memories will be able to enrich my children’s lives as they’ve done mine.

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