What makes a regular aunt become a SUPER AUNT?
“I wuuuv these shoes!”
They were light-up, glittery, and had a different Disney princess covering every surface available. I let her try them on. She didn't want to take them off. So, we went through the Target check-out line and had them scan her feet, I paid, and she wore them home, and from then on pretty much non-stop – much to my sister's extreme disliking. 😉
“We made the state playoffs!”
It's obvious what to do. Drive with my brother 6 hours there and back in less than 24 hours to watch our nephew get his trophy and play one of the best games I've ever seen? Yes. Done and done.
“I want a fairy party. Will you be the fairy?”
Well, borrow that Glenda the Good Witch costume already, will ya?
“Let's craft a family of sock turkeys for Thanksgiving.”
But, of course. We should also make matching turkey leg name cards for the family.
To be a Super Aunt means that you don't just love your nieces and nephews – you loooooooove them.You don't just hang out with them – you ADVENTURE with them. A sleepover or visit or gathering isn't just fun – it's fuuuuuuuuuuun. To be a Super Aunt means that you introduce them to the man in the moon, you practice faces in the mirror, and you absolutely light up when you are with them or talk about them. I take my ‘aunting' seriously.
What's an aunt? To me…it's a whole lot more than you might think.
Being an aunt for the first time was something I can't put into words. The moment my sister told me she was pregnant, I went out and bought a little white dress with a navy blue sailor collar for my soon-to-be niece. Or nephew. I didn't think things through – I just wanted to start practicing for my upcoming job. My starring role. I knew I didn't just want to be an aunt. I wanted to be THE AUNT. SUPER AUNT.
Jake was born and made my sister a mom, my mom a grandmother, my brother an uncle, and me – an aunt. This was more to us than just a baby being born. We had lost my dad to brain cancer two years earlier, and the birth of this baby to our family was the bright burst of sunshine, cutting through the clouds that were still hanging over us.
Did Jake get a lot of attention? You betcha. Did we laugh at everything he did? You betcha.
BEING AUNT Kaci – or just Kaci?
I don't have a good reason why I didn't want to be called “Aunt Kaci”. I just wanted to be Kaci. Or…Super Aunt. 😉
Am I being a little cheeky? Of course. Proclaiming yourself to be great at something before you are great at something is a bit presumptuous. However, making that proclamation upon the arrival of my first nephew, Jake – and again at the birth of every niece and nephew since – has reminded me time and again what I WANT to be. What I STRIVE to be.
My sister has 5 kids, my brother has 4 kids, my sister-in-law has 3 kids. Me? 0 kids.
Uh-oh…I feel a therapy moment coming on…you may want to skip this next section of “deep thoughts”. I realize nobody asked to hear them – nor does it help everyone who is on the track to becoming a Super Aunt.
To find meaning in life
I'm about to share a something that is probably going to ruffle some feathers and smooth out others.
I have heard or read some version of these words said by parents countless times : “I didn't know what life was all about – until I had children.” Or…”Now that I've had children, I know the meaning and purpose in life.”
The rather loud, defensive part of my deepest self responds in a knee-jerk reaction, “OH YEAH? Well, what about the rest of us? What about those of us who didn't or couldn't have kids? Are we just left in the dark, and we'll never know what life is all about? Never be able to find meaning in life?”
OUCH. Calm down, slow your roll, and take a breath there, Kaci.
There is a much more productive way to say what I know a lot of the other half of us – the childless ones – feel. I can only imagine how joyous and exhausting and rewarding and trying being a parent must be. I would never for a heartbeat want to say otherwise – nor take away those feelings from parents.
It honestly has GOT to feel so different and magical that it causes people to say that NOW they know what the meaning and purpose in life are all about. BEFORE they didn't.
But – may I offer parents another point of view? To say this can feel quite jarring to those who aren't able to have children and to those who have tried and tried and tried again. To those who have wanted to adopt but have not had the finances. And even to those who have simply made the choice not to have children for a myriad of reasons.
I don't believe for a second that WE will never truly know the meaning of life. How do I know this? Well, for one – I'm a Super Aunt. And Super Aunts know how to make moments out of nothing and soak up the seconds we get making memories.
Super Aunts know how to do the LIVING of LIFE. I believe that THAT is the meaning of life for parents AND non-parents.
Super aunt & FUncle
These days, being a Super Aunt is made better by having a Funcle alongside me. (For those of you who don't know…a Funcle is a fun uncle.) My husband, JW, has never had children of his own, either. When we met, we both talked of our undying love for our nieces and nephews, and we both wanted children of our own.
We happily spent a weekend with my brother's 3 kids (before the 4th one came along) and did ALL the things you do – go to the pet store and buy fish, go get ice cream twice, wake up late, and stay in pajamas and pile in the car and get donuts – still in pajamas. We pulled out ALL the stops.
On the way home, JW looked at me and said, “That was great, wasn't it?” I agreed. He then said, “I'm exhausted, are you?” I agreed. Then…he said, “Do you think we may be meant to be a Super Aunt and a Funcle instead of Mom and Dad?” I disagreed.
Then…I saw his point.
I had never really, truly been able to see myself with my own kids – until I met JW. The fact I met him later in life was bittersweet because he would have been Dad of the Decades. But sometimes you realize that not everybody is supposed to be a mom and dad.
Why? Because we NEED Super Aunts and Funcles in our world! We offer something that moms and dads can't. We offer the silly, bend-over-backward-for-you moments that aren't sustainable day in and day out.
I love the littles, but what about the middles?
I'm not what you call a baby person. I find my footing when they are about 2 or 3. Then when they turn about 13 or 14…I freak out a bit. Maybe it's because I remember ME at that age.
When my brother had his first child, Landon, I found my new favorite pal. I gave him his first haircut, and he helped me make my 40th birthday cookies. He was my New Year's Eve date one year.
Funny story – Holly, my sis-in-law, told me he could have up to 4 waffles. I fed him 4, and he was still hungry. I called and said, “What else can I give him? We're out of waffles.” She said, “HOW? There was a full box!” Turns out…1 waffle was made out of 4 little sections. I hadn't understood that pretty obvious fact. Instead, I had fed him 4 FULL waffles – 12 mini waffles! Super Aunt move, right there!
This past weekend, my brother asked me if I could hang out with Landon. The other kids had soccer tournaments out of town, and he was helping with a golf tournament out of town. “Sure thing!” I said. Then I realized JW would also be out of town, and it was just going to be me and Landon.
On Thursday, my sister-in-law called to tell me where to pick him up and where he needed to be Saturday morning for a soccer game. I don't know when it started – but I panicked. JUST me and Landon. Not the younger kids. Landon wasn't 4 anymore. He was 4-TEEEEEEEN.
My fear of being demoted from my Super Aunt status
By Friday noon, I was spiraling. Nervous. What if he didn't talk to me because he's too cool? What if he DID talk to me and realized how UNCOOL I've become? Would he be on his phone the entire time while I chauffeured him around, annoying him if I played a podcast or my latest audiobook from Reese's book club?
Being a kindergarten teacher – I know my sweet spot. I AM a 5-year-old. I GET the 4-10-year-old crowd. I'm cool with the 16-25 folks. But 11-15? No man's land.
Every Superhero faces that moment when they fear they may lose their powers or fail in their mission. I was facing that fateful moment. The moment I was alone with a 14-year-old who used to think I was awesome. My goal was to not undo my Super Aunt status and become….duh duh duhhhhhhh… “aunt.”
Maybe one day, I'll write down the nooks and crannies of our short time together. I might be skittish around 14-year-olds, but – SPOILER ALERT – this one proved me wrong. Let me give you some highlights:
- he got in the front seat – NOT LOOKING AT HIS PHONE – but TALKING TO ME
- we drove to his house to get his bag – and he ASKED ME TO SEE HIS SNEAKER COLLECTION
- he wanted to SHOW ME HOW HE CLEANS THEM and STORES THEM and TRADES them
- we went on a speedwalk through the mall to find a store that sells these high-end shoes – walked the entire thing before he spotted it and sprinted to show me a few things – the coveted shoes he'd wanted for months and months – but couldn't find his size
- went to a movie, and we BOTH loved it
- talked non-stop on the way home – again, heard about the coveted shoes
- played great in his soccer game and wasn't embarrassed when I yelled too loud
- went with me to a quick session that I had to sing and didn't complain a bit – actually asked me about how some things worked afterward – and somehow artfully tied it to his desire for those shoes!
- asked me to drive him to this specialty sneaker store that was quite a ways out of Nashville (for the shoes? One can only assume at this point)
- schooled me for over an hour on what to look for and even tried to find a perfect pair for me
- described again the coveted shoes – that weren't found at this store
I played the super aunt card
“You know…I think I just found something – oh man…there is one more place that might have the Chicago Lost & Found Air Jordan One High. Looks like it closes at 7 pm. It's 33 minutes from here. It's 6:18 now. Like I said, I have just enough money saved up…will you talk to Dad for me?”
You know what happened next. We drove 33 more minutes. I made HIM call his dad – but I was mouthing and miming what to say and how to say it. 😉 Super Aunt-style.
We had one hour left together before his dad (my brother) would arrive to retrieve him.
I had the privilege of watching him walk into this last store, spy his dream shoes, and walk back out the door with them. And yes, he tried to seatbelt them in the backseat for safety. I never said I was a good driver.
I know more now about sneakers than I ever knew there was to know. Did I become a sneakerhead? Nah. Do I really get it? Nah. Do I feel like I got played by a 14-year-old who knew I'd probably do anything for him if I could? Nope.
My Super Aunt card was played while we burned through a full tank of gas. How? Well…
I could have said no to the 15-minute mall run before the movie, but that power walk was hilarious and made us both laugh HARD when we realized we'd walked RIGHT BY IT on our way in. I could have acted disinterested in sneakers – but it really did become fascinating to me – because it was fascinating to HIM.
That's what being a Super Aunt is.
Using the short time you have together and turning the volume all the way up. Making the mundane into magic when you can. Oh, and NOT having to do the hard parenting stuff. Not a bad gig to have.
If you don't have brothers or sisters who have kids – well then, my friend, just BECOME someone's Super Aunt. I have either appointed myself or been adopted by friends' kids…and you can too.
Oh, one last thing….as a bonus? Super Aunts can also upgrade and become GREAT Super Aunts.