My oldest nephew Noah turned seven last week, and he had his Pokemon birthday party in the park this past weekend. Since I live in Phoenix, and my family lives in Tucson, Arizona, I have been fortunate enough to be a prominent part of his life since he was born. As I watched him run hard around the playground with his buddies, I thought about how fast he’s growing and how much he’s learning.
My mind wandered to life lessons that being an aunt has taught me and how without children of my own, I've gotten so many blessings from being an aunt.
I’ve watched my rambunctious nephew over the years turn from a baby into a toddler, and a toddler into a little kid, and a little kid into a boy. These seven years have not been without witnessing massive meltdowns and daily acts of defiance. As a childless outsider, it’s easy to judgmentally observe different types of parenting in public or make mental notes of how I expect my future kids to act when I’m a parent. During these seven years however, I learned a great life lesson - that parenthood is ruthlessly challenging, unpredictable and imperfect. As a young aunt who’s years from having my own family, I’m much more forgiving with my parenting judgments and negative thoughts. Our world goes round with different parenting styles and wild children who all have tendencies to go awry.
I’m the youngest in the family, so when my sister had Noah, it was the first time I ever experienced what it was like to have a newborn baby so closely involved in my life. At the time I was immature, selfish and adverse to change, so handling this new family dynamic took some adjustment. With time, I learned another great life lesson. Noah and I developed a special familial bond, and I learned that I loved this little person in a way I never knew I was capable of; most incredibly, I am amazed at how much you can actually love a child. Even during the most satanic temper tantrum, I love Noah, and there would be no hesitation if I was ever put into a situation when I'd have to give my life for his.
While watching my sister and brother-in-law raise two of the happiest little boys in the world, I realized yet another life lesson - that disciplining children is a not-so-easy task. Sometimes “no” and “stop” can be meaningless words, and time outs are useless. Parenting is unique and techniques for discipline take many different shapes while you're trying to raise good future members of society. My family has taught me that discipline is an open forum, and children can learn a lot by being disciplined from adults other than just mom and dad. Thus when Noah is exceptionally disobedient and rebellious, it doesn’t hurt for his aunt to step in.
I’ve always felt like I lacked that innate motherhood gene. My dreams never focused on getting married, having babies and creating a family. Whenever I somewhat forcefully envisioned marriage and family, motherhood especially, I would question whether this was a real desire or a desire thrust upon me by society and our culture. Noah, and my youngest nephew Max, have shown me how much joy, meaning and color kids bring to life, despite the hardships and challenges of parenthood. Although picking baby names or choosing a color scheme for a nursery is in my very distant future, I can imagine it for myself someday, thanks to my beloved buddies Noah and Max.