There was a time in my life when I wanted more than anything to get married and have kids. At least three, just like my parents had, but with a boy in there somewhere. After getting bullied most of my school years, I always wanted a brother who would defend me. Of course, I learned to defend myself or ignore the haters.
When I was about 25 and visiting a cardiologist for the first time in years, I was informed that kids would never be in my future. Why? Because of my invisible illness, which has made my heart physically weaker than other people’s. Pregnancy and labor is tough enough on a perfectly healthy heart, but on mine? It could lead to a number of disasters.
So I had to resign myself to never having kids. Sometimes, it’s still hard, but in the last five years, it’s been made a lot easier. How? One of my younger sisters has two children, and I get to be their auntie. Based on my own experiences of life, here are some of the things I get to teach them as Auntie:
A Love of Sports
I’m the sports fan among the three girls born to my parents. I was even once a sports reporter for a local newspaper. Because I could never play sports when I was young, I cultivated my own love of watching them and being a fan. Basketball and baseball have always been two of my favorite sports.
This summer, I took my five-year-old niece and three-year-old nephew to their first baseball game. They both sat rapt, gloves on their hands, waiting for a foul ball. No ball ever came, but I could tell that they’d fallen in love with it, especially my niece.
Her enthusiasm for the sport made me realize that the evolution of women in sports will certainly reach a zenith with her generation. It’s up to me, a lover of sports and fitness, to help cultivate her own love of sports.
Of course, I must also indulge my nephew’s love of our local university’s football team. Football is not my favorite sport, but I love my nephew and the fact that at not-quite-four, he loves his football team so much he requested a sweater knitted by my mother in the team’s colors, “Because I love BSU!” he shouted, referring to the Boise State Broncos. This will likely prompt me to someday get us tickets to the Denver Broncos, since they share the same mascot and colors, and he’s still under the age of five.
A Love of Travel
In their short little lives, my niece and nephew have traveled quite a bit with their parents. They’ve road tripped to Nebraska multiple times. My niece will even tell you about the time she flew in a plane to Seattle. She was perhaps a year old, but she loves telling people she’s been on an airplane.
Once again, her eagerness to travel is infectious, and I feel compelled to cultivate that desire to see the world. Of all three of her aunties, I have done the most extensive traveling, living in Europe twice in college and taking my own students to the United Kingdom once when teaching. I’ve even lived in the bush in Alaska, teaching for a year.
My niece’s and nephew’s mother has only been out of the country for a trip to Mexico, and my youngest sister once lived temporarily in Australia. As they both get older, it will be up to me to share my experiences, especially the most adventurous ones, like that school year in Alaska. One of the most harrowing experiences of my life, it was also one of the most personally rewarding ones, and I want my niece and nephew to feel that.
A Love of the Everyday
One of my niece’s and nephew’s favorite things to do is to eat with their family members. Every meal is eaten either at the breakfast bar in the house that my sister’s and I grew up in and they’re now growing, or it’s at the big dinner table.
On Thanksgiving this year, my young nephew looked around the table and declared, “I’m just so happy right now.” This statement, of course, elicited lots of ooh-ing and aw-ing from the adults at the table.
My niece and nephew are also innocent enough that they like everyday activities like cooking and cleaning. They are not my favorite things in the world, and in a case of them teaching me, one of the secrets of making cleaning fun is to turn it into a party. When I babysit and we need to clean what I call “toy throw-up,” the kids and I turn on music and see who can clean the most the fastest. This ploy is one I need to incorporate into my own life and habits.
Because I have my niece and nephew in my life now, and I enjoy being able to pick up and do whatever I want when I want, I’ve become comfortable with not having kids. I can be “that auntie,” the one who teaches them good habits and still takes them to get their first drink someday. Or maybe a tattoo.
Photo from Gratisography
Guest Author Bio
H. E. James, MBA
Hattie is a writer and researcher living in Boise, Idaho. She has a varied background, including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency. She recently completed her MBA and enjoys local ciders.