Guest Post: Being a Good Aunt & Forming Connections with Nieces and Nephews

I would like to welcome Rachel Thomas who wrote this beautiful piece for us here at Nonmom. Enjoy! — Nonmom

In the beginning when my siblings and I started our families we lived in close proximity to each other which made it easy to connect with my nieces and nephews. After a few years things began to change because both siblings moved, one to another part of the state and one out of state. We always got together at Christmas and usually every summer as well but I was concerned that it was not enough because I know for children to bond there needs to be ongoing interaction.

I set my mind on ways to keep my relationship with them; I was determined to make it work. One of the reasons I was so set on making this work was because of my relationship with one of my uncles, actually my only uncle. Over the course of my childhood and into my adulthood he went out of his way to connect with me and not only me but I have heard the same thing from my cousin as well. One time as a small child I had scarlet Tina which was a lesser case of scarlet fever but I was oh so sick. One day my uncle shows up with the fixing for an ice cream float that he thought would make me feel better, today the doctors would tell us that that is not a great idea with the dairy and all but it was the sixties. Anyway, he made me a float and he had brought me some coloring supplies as well. You may think my uncle was single but he was not, at that time he had two children of his own and later he had five! He still took time out to stop his life and give joy to his niece.

Another time my uncle called up and asked if I could go on a job with him, he was a contractor and he had made arrangements to help an elderly couple out who lived in the country. I was happy to go and along the way we sang songs and he told me silly stories. When we arrived the elderly couple was so happy to see me and fed me all kinds of treats while uncle worked. They also fed all the wild animals that came to their house and while I was there I fed a deer, a squirrel, a raccoon, and tons of birds which thrilled my soul because I was a city girl. What a precious memory that I have held in my heart all these years.

So you can see why I was and am so determined to have an ongoing relationship with my nieces and nephews as well. You never know what memories will stick and some memories are so healing and can actually bring you through hard times.

Over the years I have made a point of calling each one of my nieces and nephews and talking to them personally on the phone. Of course birthdays and Christmas they get a gift from me but I decided years ago that I would do something more. I started making up care packages of sorts, on Valentines Day, Halloween, Easter, Independence Day, and just about any celebration day I would send out packages. They were not expensive things just small gifts, candies, and cards to let them know I love them. They were always so excited to get these packages in the mail and then we would talk on the phone about what they received. They had a lot of fun just anticipating what was going to be in the package next.

Another thing I like doing when the kids are in town is to take them out individually. Sometimes for their birthday and instead of buying them something in advance I will take them shopping and then out for lunch or treats. We have a great deal of fun just riding in the car to and from because they like to torture me with their music and I try and get them to tell me what they actually like about it! Then I make them listen to music from my generation, which nine times out of ten they like because they say, “well, that is classic music!”. I say of course it is classic because it is from my generation!

I take them to the stores in the mall they like to go and hold my ears while they look around. Just this past month my youngest nephew, who was turning fourteen, came to visit and we had are alone time looking for a birthday gift. I took him to all the wild stores and told him that he could pick one thing he wanted or we could go to one of the department stores and I could buy him several things because I was in possession of a coupon. I was happy that he ended up looking at the department store and I was able to get him several things for going back to school. I was thrilled to have this opportunity because four of my nieces and nephews lost their mom three years ago and three of them are now what is considered adults. They are still in need of a mom, who I can never be, but I am oh so glad I formed a bond with them so that when they need someone to talk to they can feel free to call their auntie who loves them.

One of my nieces is starting a family and I get the opportunity of being the one she calls to ask for advice on baby matters and I get to be one of the first to know! I am thrilled that I was able to bond with these children from the day they were born and that most of them call me and want me to be part of their lives.

I do have one nephew who I tried to help when he was eighteen and his mom threw him out of the house. He was behaving badly and doing some drugs and asked if he could live with me. I laid down the rules and told him if he could abide by them I would help him. We tried it for over a year and he could not be true to his word and I eventually had to give him an ultimatum. He moved out and has since gotten into more trouble. He has stopped calling me, I assume because he does not want to hear what I have to say about his life. I am hopeful that by God’s great grace he will get his life together and we can take up where we left off.

It does not always work out with each niece and nephew with a fairy tale ending but when you make yourself available and show them how much you love them these relationships can last a lifetime. I have seen first hand how important it is to have someone in your life to talk to as a young person that loves you besides your parents. Sometimes they will talk to you whereas they will not there parents because you have formed this bond and I would much rather they call me for advice than ask their peers. If I can help in large or small ways to make it in this world growing up then I am blessed.

It is not enough just to send cards and gifts or see them on holidays. It has to be a relationship that is worked on and nurtured but in my opinion it is worth it. I want to see them succeed and grow up to be solid, secure, and happy adults and if I can help to produce that result in their lives even just a little then I am thrilled. The love for our siblings should produce a love for their children as well. We all need a little extra help in our parenting and if all the aunties and uncles out there gave just a small part of their time every once and awhile then I believe it does make a difference.

Author Bio:
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.

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