This week's Parenting Club comes from Aunt Zizi. I have known Lindsey since she was a surly teenager and have watched her grow into a wonderful woman. I asked her to write about parenting from an aunt's perspective, as she is very close to her nephews and niece, and has had a hand in raising most, if not all of them. You can read more from Lindsey at On How to be Lovely.
I have rewritten this post five times. Sixth is the charm, right? Mostly, it's just difficult to explain my situation without being long-winded, boring or sentimental. Heidi said, "Be funny, Lindsey!" I'm finding it hard to be funny on cue. I'm no dancing monkey, Heidi! Still, I'm going to try this one more time.
I'm Lindsey. There are oh so many things that define who I am, but one of my favorite things is that I am an aunt. Aunt Lindsey or Zizi, depending on which children are doing the name calling. I have always loved kids and all I've ever wanted out of life is to be a mother. I don't have my own babies yet, but I spoil the heck out of my sister and brother's kids. There are six all together, five boys and one girl, ranging in ages from 13 to 2 1/2. My level of involvement in each of their lives has varied over the years. I went from being the doting, teenage aunt to one opinionated toddler to the college attending, long-distance aunt who spoiled her three favorite boys despite money and distance to the live-in/caretaker aunt who gets to see her two youngest nephews grow up day by day. That's a pretty big spectrum, but I've loved every incarnation of aunthood that I've achieved.
When I moved home after college, my sister, brother-in-law and their oldest son (who was one at the time) were also living with my parents. I shared my room with the one year old, now that was an adventure. Needless to say, neither of us slept very well. A few years later (and the addition of another baby), I moved into a new house with my sister and her family. I was back home, without a job, nannying for my sister and whoever else wanted to pay me. Watching my nephews was one of the hardest and greatest things I've done in my life. Same goes for the decision to move in with them. It's so hard to balance being an aunt and helping raise these boys. I want to be the fun aunt 100% of the time, but life won't allow that. I'm also not their mother, so there are times when I can be the fun aunt and not feel guilty. I also get to make my sister change the dirty diapers, but that's mostly because I potty-trained her oldest son and I think she'll owe me forever for that one.
Now that you are all up to speed, here's the good stuff. A list (I'm a fan of lists) of six things I've learned about parenting from being a super aunt:
1. Chill out. Monkey see, monkey do. If you are stressed and high strung, your kids are going to pick up on that and your day is going to go down hill faster than a Jamaican bobsledding team. Put yourself in time out or learn some breathing exercises or distract yourself and the kids with something more fun and productive.
2. Baby wipes are amazing. I've used baby wipes once to clean crayon off of cream colored upholstery. I also use the same thing to clean my nephew's face and bottom. That seems off, right? But baby wipes keep my clothes and car free from sticky residue and stains so YAY WIPES!
3. TV is not the devil. Sometimes when you've been in a house all day with three screaming children under the age of 3, two of whom insist on being carried, the TV will become your best friend. If Yo Gabba Gabba provides me with 30 minutes of scream-free peace, then yes, TV is an angel sent from heaven.
4. Get the king size bed. It only takes one night of "sleeping" in a twin size bottom bunk with a wriggling 3-year-old to learn this very important lesson - and countless other nights in similar situations to burn this lesson into your brain for time and all eternity.
5. Build up a tolerance for waste. Children are adorable. They say the darndest things. They also pee, poop, cry, and throw up all over the place. It happens and sometimes several of those things happen all at once. It's like a horror movie, only there's no crew man waiting off stage to come clean up the mess.
6. Enjoy the little moments. Sometimes days are bad. Sometimes, by the time you are sitting down to dinner, it's all you can do to keep from crying. That's when it's time to pay more attention to the little moments and try to focus on those. Things like how cute it is when your 2 year old starts dancing at the dinner table and eating his sandwich like a kitty cat or when your 4 year old actually sits down and eats every single thing on his plate without complaint AND asks for seconds. The more of those you find, the more your bad day will seem less bad.
So there ya go. Parenting from my current perspective. I love that I can share this. I know my situation is not normal, but I wouldn't trade this time with my nephews for anything in the world.