Thursday, February 28, 2013

These Are Not My Children

Well, after a brief hiatus (darn that whole job thing for getting in the way!), I’m finally ready for another Theme Thursday blog post.  And this week’s topic is OPK—Other People’s Kids.

            And, to be honest, I almost missed this Theme Thursday too. Not because I don’t like the topic but because after years of teaching high school, I have had more than my share of drama with other people’s kids.  I loved teaching and I loved 99% of the kids I dealt with (even those I mentally called ‘loveable thugs’) but I could easily get into a crazy rant about the other 1%...and don’t even get me started on their parents!

So I decided to focus on the other people’s kids that make me happiest…my nieces and nephews.  I have 4 nieces and 2 nephews and I love them beyond reason—even though they’re always getting me in trouble.

Sure, they’re smart, good-looking, and sweet but, make no mistake, they’re trouble—at least for me.  For some reason, every time they spend the weekend with me, I end up getting angry phone calls from my brother.

It all started ten years ago, when my two oldest nieces were two and four.   I kept the girls while my brother and his wife went away for a romantic weekend. I had dozens of activities planned and afterward the four-year-old assured me that I was the “best aunt ever!” Clearly, the weekend was a screaming success.

Unfortunately, my brother didn’t agree. A fact made apparent when the call came a few days later. “Do you have any idea why my two daughters are running around waving their fists in the air yelling ‘It’s go time?’” He demanded, without even saying hello.

“I have no idea,” I replied. “But if I had to guess, I’d say that someone was mouthing off to them and they were forced to stand up for themselves.”

“It’s interesting that you say that,” he crowed triumphantly. “Because when the DAYCARE CALLED TO COMPLAIN, they mentioned that the girls first yell ‘Are you mouthing me?’ and then say ‘It’s go time!’”

Which, of course, made it a lot harder to deny. I had to admit that during our weekend reenactment of TV wrestling, I might have waved my own fist in the air and uttered the offending phrase.

“You have to be careful!” My brother insisted then. “You can’t teach them things like that!”

But, you see, these are not my children.

I love them more than anything else in the world, but I’m not Mom or Dad or even Grandma or Grandpa. I’m not supposed to teach them morals or traditional values. I’m Aunt Kimberly; my only job is to keep my purse filled with candy and gum and teach them things like “go time.”

That weekend I gave them a veritable cornucopia of valuable information. I showed them how to build a tent with blankets in the middle of the living room floor. I demonstrated the best way to roast marshmallows over a huge candle and how to make s’mores out of chocolate chip cookies. Finally I showed them how to burn off the sugar rush of four s’mores by jumping on the trampoline until we were ready to crawl over to our tent and watch movies until three in the morning.

As they’ve grown older, I’ve taught them other equally important life lessons. Like the exact amount of cookie dough they can eat before getting sick. Or how to blow bubbles that are as big as their heads--and almost immediately after that, the best way to get bubble gum out of their hair.

I’ve given them hot pink eye shadow and green lipstick—shades their parents would never approve of—just to show them how ridiculous they look in hot pink eye shadow and green lipstick.

I’ve even taught them the beautiful secret of reading between the lines and decoding “grown up speak.”  See, my personal philosophy is to never say no to them.  Not ever.  These are not my children and it’s not my job to set limits.  So I have two standard answers whenever they ask me to do something.  The simple answer is, of course, yes.  Yes, absolutely you can have chocolate cake for breakfast…or that new doll…or those amazingly tacky zebra stripe boots I bought and only wore once.  Yes, whatever you want my darlings.

But—all evidence to the contrary—I’m not a complete idiot.  Even cool Aunt Kimberly isn’t going to let an eleven year old go bungee jumping at some unlicensed carnival or let a thirteen year old go to a midnight concert in downtown St. Louis by herself.  And that’s when I pull out standard answer number two: Ask your dad.  If he says it’s ok with him, it’s ok with me.

The youngest one figured it out over Christmas break.   I don’t remember exactly what she asked me but it was something crazy, something like if I thought she could dye her hair purple—her favorite color.

“Ask your dad,” I told her.  “If it’s ok with him, then-“
            “That means no,” she said.

Bingo! Lesson learned.

My brother, I’m sure, is irritated by the way I make him be the heavy, make him take all the blame.  And he’d probably be horrified if he knew all the details of our weekends together. After all, he’s the parent not the “best aunt ever!” He’s supposed to make the girls eat their vegetables and go to bed at a reasonable hour.  He has to guide them through life and turn them into responsible, productive, happy, moral members of society. 

 I’m just the aunt and my job is much easier. I get to teach them fun things like how to fill water balloons and do magic tricks.

And, of course, how to deal with someone who’s mouthing them.

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  1. Smores with chocolate chip cookies? That's brilliant!

  2. Love this. Just remember one day, he's gonna be an uncle!

    1. Let's just hope that after raising his own kids, he's a little more mature than I am!

  3. But they weren't even cussing! The day care had a problem with "It's go time!"? Thanks goodness mine aren't there. Sass took "S.O.B." for a test drive in class the other day....

    You sound like a wonderful aunt... now, can I have cake for breakfast?

    1. To be fair, I think the daycare and my brother were more upset with the fist waving that accompanied the "It's go time!" But, still, it was good times!

  4. You know what? *I* think you are the best aunt ever too and I hope to God my girls have at least one person in their life like you. I may get irked at the choices someone makes (but seriously, you do them a huge favor by watching their kids so they can go off on a romantic weekend and then you get shit about what you said in front of them? not cool) but the long range benefits here I think are out of this world.

    Those girls are going to trust you and come to you and if anything is ever seriously wrong and they are too afraid to go to mom & dad, they will come to YOU instead of making a horrible choice, or worse, going to a BOY for support. God love you, you are doing EVERYTHING right by those girls!

    1. Thanks, I hope so...I love them to the moon and back!

  5. Never underestimate the power of food.

    1. Oh, so bribery has always been one of my favorite strategies!

  6. Everyone needs a cool aunt! :-D