If, like me, you are a devoted aunt or uncle, it may surprise you to learn that there is an entire day dedicated just to us! We certainly have our uses. Whether offering free childcare at a moment's notice or supporting frazzled siblings as they get to grips with becoming a parent. We also enjoy the best of both worlds. Swanning in after eight hours' sleep and loading the little ones up on sugar, before swanning off again, just as the tears and tantrums erupt. However, we are often just as invested in these mini-mes as their parents are, daydreaming about the day they win Wimbledon and dedicate their trophy to us.
Brand spanking new mums and dads are often asked how their lives have changed since becoming a parent. When my sister gave birth to her first daughter, Scarlett, over seven years ago, I had no idea what to expect and was afraid I might fail to bond with my new niece. Hundreds of nappy changes, bottle feeds and bedtime stories later, I found myself a fully paid-up member of the besotted aunties club! A screensaver of Scarlett on every device and a back catalogue of baby anecdotes to share with anyone who would listen.
Isla was born two years after her sister, and the pair have been a constant source of hilarity and joy ever since. Both girls are fond of dressing up. It is not unusual to venture out in mid-November with one dressed as Elsa and the other in flip-flops and sun hat, clutching a parasol like a miniature Mary Poppins. Despite belonging to the upcoming generation of technology reliant tots who are permanently glued to their iPads. I was relieved to learn that they still enjoy the same exploits I did as a child. Cue tea-parties with teddies, raiding mummy's jewellery box and galloping around the garden with glowing cheeks and muddy knees.
can anything prepare you for babysitting?
I have also grown closer to my sister since she became a mother, and am regularly called upon to indulge in some wine and grown-up conversation that does not end in the words “can I have a snack?” While I adore my nieces, I am perfectly aware that they are on their best(ish) behaviour with me. Reserving any tantrums exclusively for their parents. My sister recently enjoyed a rare night out with her husband, and I was enlisted to babysit. Cue an evening spent trying to rally the tiny troops into brushing their teeth, putting on their pyjamas and climbing into bed. It took a strong cup of “tea” and the Coronation Street omnibus to recover from this exhausting ordeal. During which I wondered, how on earth do parents endure the same routine each evening and why has every last weary one of them not been knighted?
Of course, becoming an aunt has involved many, many more magical moments than melt-downs. Watching my nieces’ expectant faces as I tuck them in for a bedtime story is a genuine treat. And reminds me of the excitement I felt as a child, drifting off to sleep with the refrain of yet another adventure ringing in my ears. My sister and I are also frequently moved by the increasing resemblance both girls bear to our late father, and feel he has been returned to us in their ski-slope noses and pale blue eyes. Most of all, I feel privileged to watch these beautiful, vibrant, witty individuals as they form personalities, friendships and memories. Hoping they will continue to demand bedtime stories from me for many years to come.
happy aunt and uncle day to me
Will I be expecting the postman to deliver a beautifully wrapped gift, draped in ribbons and bows, on July 26th? Each cuddle, giggle and game I share with my nieces feels like its own gift. Surely to hope for one more would be greedy. Instead, this aunt and uncle day, I think I'll buy them a treat - a tennis racquet, perhaps...