I Chose the Aunt Life

Last night, our friends and their kids had dinner with us then came over to hang out with the kittens. During our meal, the elder asked me why and how we are their aunts because we aren’t related to them. That opened a conversation about choosing family and that we chose to be involved in their lives because we loved their moms. Both of the boys are adopted so they were talking about a legal relationship, not a biological one.

It was a perfectly ordinary conversation because we encourage them to talk with us about anything that is on their mind. But it got me thinking about my own family.

We have six nieces and nephews. My brother has a son and a daughter, but I’ve never met them and have no idea if they even know that I exist. That estrangement is mired in decades of trauma, neglect, abuse, and rejection. I can say that I think about those two kids every day and wonder what they are like and what characteristics they’ve inherited from their Dad. I think about them when I consider my own legacy – the stories I blog about my family history are their stories to engage one day.

Laura’s brother also has a daughter and son. They are my family through her, but I’ve also discovered that they are very distant cousins through their mother – she and I are 9x cousins. Obviously, that’s a whole lotta distance, but the odds of finding out someone is your 9th cousin are 5% so it still speaks to the reality that we have a lot of shared experiences from previous generations who settled in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We see the kids infrequently, but try to keep in touch via text and occasional group outings.

And then there are the boys we chose to embrace as part of our family. Their parents welcome us into their daily lives and it is such a gift to be part of those experiences – to hear about who won the Cub Scout boat race and look at drawings and discuss cats. And have this real network of memories that goes back through their childhoods. But best of all is that these two young men look forward to seeing us, they genuinely like being around us. How do you put a value on that?

I consider myself an aunt to six children even though I only see two regularly, two semi-regularly, and the other two never. They are real relationships albeit predicated on different factors. They are *real* relationships in my head and heart.

If Jessi and Ethan came back into my life tomorrow, I’d gratefully pick up with them. When Laura’s brother’s kids want to see us in their busy schedules, it is terrific.

But there is something special about the two who do get excited about something as banal as lunch at Eat n Park without needing to infuse more into the experience.

Someday I hope all of the kids read this post and know that I think of them every day, both in a personal “how are they doing?” way and in the context of my advocacy work, knowing that many of the issues I work on now will have massive ramifications for their generations.

My aunts were always distant figures in my life. I knew them, but didn’t have real relationships with them. I always wondered why they didn’t seem to be interested in me and my brother.

When our eldest nibling was born, I promised myself that I would always try to be the adult family for them that I wish I had during my childhood.

Being a cool aunt is never my goal. Being an available, involved adult in their lives has always been the goal.

I chose the aunt life. And the aunt life chose me.

The aunt life
Photos used with permission of niblings.

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