From Our Readers
February 18, 2015 2:09 pm

I’ve always known I was going to have kids, and probably a lot of them. I grew up in a family of four kids and adored it, and I hope to have a good little nest of children myself someday, because siblings are an absolute blast. There’s really nothing like them. My mother-in-law used to tell my husband and his siblings when they were little, “God has chosen you all to be best friends for life.” And that’s really the best way to explain it. It’s a wonderful relationship that’s unique and lasting.

But then there’s aunthood.

It’s powerful. It redefines your identity. It really is a state of being, a calling. A calling that’s completely out of your control. I entered aunthood almost four years ago, when my oldest brother and his wife brought little bebe Abigail into the world. She was so cute and pink and big-headed and life-changing. Watching her grow has been. . . insane. Crazy, brilliant, exciting, scary, shocking, wonderful. She’s made my own life seem so much faster. When you’re able to track your days by the constant changes in a little child, you realize how quickly it all goes by.

I’m just going to be completely honest with you all and say that I don’t naturally like kids. I know it’s a horrible thing to say, but I also know that I’m not alone. (Please tell me I’m not alone?) Being around kids doesn’t come naturally to me. My husband is the one who is going to be an absolute natural, the one who I think has wanted to have kids since he himself was a child. He has always wanted to be a dad.

I’m the weird one who is totally fine not holding the new baby. Who has to restrain myself from disciplining random kids because they’re driving me crazy. The one who has really naive and ridiculous views on how to parent because oh boy if that were MY child. . .  I’m the one who talks to children like they’re adults because I can’t stand baby talk, and because I don’t even know how to gush over them. Instead, I say things like, “What’s shakin’?” or “Sup?”

I’m the girl that never babysat in my teenage years because I’d rather be broke than spend my days with little kids. I know I’m a terrible human. I would normally make jokes about it, but it’s honestly something that scares me. What if I’m a terrible mom? What if I don’t even like my kids? I don’t like most kids, to be honest. I’ve probably side-eyed your kids before, too. (I’m sorry!)

But here’s the really beautiful light at the core of this post: being an aunt.

Oh gosh—if becoming a mom is even more transformative than being an aunt, I can’t wait to be one. Abby opened up a brand new corner of my heart that I didn’t even know existed. I now have five nieces and nephews, and I love them all so much. Which is the great thing about love—it isn’t stingy, it doesn’t deplete; it multiplies.

Abigail is the oldest and is now at the age where I can actually talk to her and tell her secrets. I can see her eyes light up when she sees pretty clothes and jewelry (I can’t even handle the excitement of our future shopping trips together), and I have a front row seat to observe her developing her own tastes and interests. She is a fabulous little creature and I love being close to her. Here are just a few reasons why being an aunt is the best.

I get to be a huge influence in her life.

This is an honor, you guys. I’m already at the core of her life, by no merit of my own. I have the power and the blessing of being there for her. There are a few people in every child’s life that will always be there as big influencers in their development. The immediate family is first, and then come the outer rings, friends and extended family. Realizing the preciousness of our relationship—the honored role that I have in her life—is quite humbling and miraculous. It’s real and it’s for life.

I have a deeper connection with my siblings.

Watching someone become a parent is quite revolutionary. It changes them and changes the relationship, and the fact that they flipped the switch and changed the rest of us into aunts and uncles makes it a much deeper and more meaningful connection. It takes intention, patience, love, honesty, hard work, and understanding. Loving someone’s children is like the white stuff in the center of the Oreo. It’s just as important as the cookies.

It gives me a little taste of parenthood.

Emphasis on little. You get real-life examples of what being a parent is like, but you get to leave at the end of the day. You don’t have to stick around for the tantrums or the blow-outs. When everyone’s sick or exhausted or teething, you can just peace out and go to brunch, sip that mimosa, and chillax. It’s a great wake-up call for snobby childless folk who claim to have all of the answers, because parenthood is no joke. It’s the real deal. You learn so many lessons by being an outsider looking in. It’s enlightening and, for those of us planning to be parents, preparatory.

I get a beautiful new friend.

As an aunt, I’m family, but I’m also something else entirely. I am an adult that has a very real opportunity to have a friendship with a child who loves me, looks up to me, and confides in me. I remember being a little girl and having a few young women that I worshipped and adored. I was absolutely fascinated by their lives and wanted to be just like them. I love being on the flip side of that now, watching these kids grow and falling in love with the people they are becoming. I want to be their best friend (in a responsible, auntie-like way, of course).

We always talk about family around the holidays, but I think it’s a great time to really examine and appreciate the various roles we have as family members. Brother, sister, father, mother, daughter, son. Family is a beautiful puzzle of imperfect people made to love and support each other. I love that. And being an aunt is my favorite thing.

Caitlin Schanaker is a total sap, living and loving in Arizona with an English degree and her incredible husband. She’s a media specialist, traveler, blogger, cat-stroker, and hazelnut latte enthusiast. She wears dresses almost always and unabashedly loves rom-coms and the renaissance festival. She spends her time contemplating a pixie cut and watching Ever After way too much. Check out her blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

(Image via.)

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