Having children is not in my future. Sometimes people say “you never know,” but yes, I do. Some of the reasons are personal, some are medical , and others come down to autism and the fact that I overload so easily. I think the biggest reason is that I don’t stay engaged with what goes on around me. It wouldn’t be safe for me to be the only person caring for a young child especially when I am not yet caring for some of my own needs. But not having the option of having kids really isn’t a sad thing for me. I have a lot of limitations in my life, but I’ve learned and learned well that you can mourn that thing you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean what you do have isn’t really, really good, too.
My sister is six years older than me. Our mom has always said how we will always have each other and how there is no one like your sister. As we are getting older, I’m starting to see her not just as the big sister who can do so many cool things and who has all the answers (cause as every younger sister knows, even when she has no clue, an older sister always has all of the answers, right?). I see her leadership and insight and wisdom. I also see how hard she works at things that challenge her. Her challenges are very different than mine, but the fact that it’s hard to overcome your most ingrained weaknesses is universally difficult. She screws up (as do I), but she apologizes and means it–she must have learned from our mom. I’m twice as lucky–I get two really good role models!
The most powerful thing has been watching my sister become a mom. My nephew–I call him Mr. B–is 2.5 years old. My memory goes far back to right around my second birthday, and it’s not a few random flashes… I honestly think I remember more of my toddler years than my mom does, things like the songs of TV shows and the names of nurses and doctors I saw as well as things about our daily lives and growing up. Watching him and my sister do everyday things, I remember how loved and excited and everything else I felt when our mom did those same things when I was little. I won’t be a mom, but I am a very, very lucky aunt. I can’t imagine how an aunt could be more a part of a little one’s life. It simply doesn’t get better.
At this point at least, my nephew and I have two big things in common. First, our favorite movie is Cars. I love it because there are officially no parts that startle me and no bad guys being mean to good guys. Plus, it’s awesome. He thinks it’s awesome, too, and it fits right in with his total obsession over vehicles of any kind. I’ve been trying to convince the kid of this awesomeness since forever, because cars are his THING, and finally about six months ago, it clicked. B also adores kitties. In fact, if he sees me, first I get “Hi Eeya!” though he sometimes says “Aunt Ly-di-a” these days, which is a little bittersweet. The next thing he says to me is, inevitably, “Lu-cy?” In case you’re new around here, Lucy is my cat, and I LOVE cats. Love doesn’t cover it. They are the single most natural and perfect connection I have. Mr. B’s first word was meow… and whether he ends up liking cats the best or not, one thing I know is that he gets the total joy I feel when I–we–see them. He’s always up for the tractor tipping scene in Cars, too, which I pull up on YouTube almost every time I see him. Everyone else is bored of it by now. Not B.
And then, just when I was sure that life couldn’t possibly get better… it did. on December 3rd in the wee hours of the morning, our family had a second wave of surreal joy. Meet E, my niece.
I never knew why people were so taken with babies. I still don’t understand, but I am totally taken! I may never be a mom, but I do understand things I didn’t before these two blessed our lives. I remember when my sister texted me that Mr. B had a high fever and they were in the ER–I’ve never had the blood-goes-cold feeling except that moment. I’ve never all-out cried with joy except when we found out E was a girl. I’ve never prayed for anyone or anything like I have been praying since the day we learned that Mr. B was expected. I like babies and adore kids, but honestly, I think every baby looks the same. Except these two. Something about THESE kids is altogether different, whether I can make sense of it or not.
I realized early on that a lot of the super-cool aunt jobs won’t be my role in their lives. I won’t be babysitting them alone anytime soon, as I disengage too easily and Mr. B is a climber and gets into everything. Because I am never without a 25-lb rolling backpack attached to me by a few feet of tubing or else in my wheelchair, I can’t hold the baby and walk anywhere at the same time. There won’t be sleepovers, I won’t drive them to do fun weekend things, I won’t be giving them cousins to play with. In some ways, their mom will probably always have a degree of oversight and support in my life. I’m not and won’t be married, and it’s just Lucy and I (with my support staff) at home.
As I said early on, it’s easy to feel see this situation as missing out both for me and for them. But if we only see the holes, we’re missing so much!
They’ll always have…
Someone who is ready to play with them, either in a way to help them grow and learn or in a way to make them feel like they’re doing something taboo while keeping them safe. It’s a talent of mine.
Someone who knows about all the best kid books and likely has a few of them on her bookshelf.
Someone to share Disney magic with them!
Someone with a ton of craft supplies to make cool stuff and send cool stuff to them in the mail.
Someone to make up games and activities so they can have fun when they come over. (I made the car track many months ago and have been glad to see how well it’s held up! I walk on it all the time.)
Someone who will always have a few toys at home (and if they leave a plain wooden truck around, they have someone who will make it a lot more fun with B and his Aunt Eeya on a road trip!)
They’ll have someone who knows the intricacies of child development.
Someone who can teach them that when kitties scrunch their eyes, that means they’re smiling.
Someone who is so helpless around blank wood and markers that she will make them a second, even neater car…
Someone who will be ready to start celebrating their birthdays at least two months in advance.
And who will be entirely on their side, lending my voice to their begging to open presents NOW! and cake right after. Or at the same time as presents. Or before, and then presents. But none of this sitting around and chatting stuff!
They have someone who knows what it’s like to try really hard and just not get it right… who will be the one to be proud of the effort and not upset at the lack of result.
They will have someone who is proud of everything new they try, excited to watch them grow up, and darn sure they are the cutest, most amazing kids in the world… just like every other aunt.
We may not be typical, but we’ll be fine–more than fine. We’ll be our own kind of awesome.