Single aunts and uncles are vital to family life in so many ways.
I never wanted to be someone who bemoans their singlehood — but quarter-life crisis, you got me good this time. See, I’m the youngest sibling in a Catholic family. Meaning, my older sisters have 13 kids combined and I’ve been an aunt since I was 8 years old. At 27, I consider myself a professional kid whisperer.
But let me tell you, realizing your nephew or niece is old enough to get married is like waking up on a bullet train speeding straight toward Spinsterville — no stops. Well, it feels that way, anyway. All of this was brought to my attention courtesy of my 12-year-old niece, who interjected during a family lunch, “What if Dominic gets married before you, Aunt Lilly?”
I turned to my other niece, who was 7 and jokingly asked, “Do you think I should get married?” She sat for a moment and nibbled on her PB&J before scrunching up her nose and shaking her head, “No.”
Strangely enough, I’ve noticed that whenever my singleness comes up among my nieces and nephews (yeah, hot topic, hooray) the response to the idea of me getting married is a resounding, “Nah.”
Last summer, my sister shared similar thoughts. She said, “Single aunts are really important in a kid’s life and they’re a huge support to parents.” She went on to clarify that aunts are important not just in a “hey, you’re a great free babysitter” way, but in a “you’re vital to the growth and development of my child” kind of way.
Here are a few things she told me that have changed my perspective on my being single and an aunt.
It’s no secret that practicing Catholics often have large families. Naturally, it’s difficult managing individual one-on-one time with every single one of your kids. Every child craves individualized attention, but it’s tough competing with an infant or toddler. As a single aunt (or uncle), you’re able to offer the undivided attention your brother or sister may be struggling to give at the moment.
Of course one-on-one time with an aunt or uncle can never replace alone time with a parent. You can, however, help your niece or nephew feel special, heard, and valued. Things like planning a movie night, taking them out to the mall, or going out for dinner and ice cream may not seem like a big deal to you, but it means a lot to a kid. Those are outings they remember for years to come.
2Additional maternal or paternal love
Again, an aunt or uncle can’t replace the love of a parent, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer additional maternal or paternal love. Every man and woman, regardless of whether they’re a parent or not, can provide unconditional love, comfort, and guidance. Having another adult who cares can help a child realize their worth and feel confident that they are wanted and loved.
My sister told me, “Aunts and uncles are like life-vests to parents. In moments when your own kids are making irrational demands and you’re stressed the to max, an aunt essentially becomes a second you. When you’re past your limit and are struggling to meet your children’s demands, an aunt can swoop in and offer an unconditional love that is an extension of yours.”
We’re all guilty of spoiling our nieces and nephews — but that’s a part of the job description, right? When aunts and uncles spoil, it’s special type of doting that allows the child to feel like they’re important and worthy of attention. It’s not an excessive spoiling à la Veruca Salt, but an occasional treat that makes them feel special and cherished.
Receiving goodies and treats from aunts and uncles is different than getting them from parents. Because children always depend upon their parents for food, clothes, toys, etc., it becomes assumed that parents will get them things. But when an aunt or uncle splurges on a niece or nephew, it feels more like a gift and it helps the child learn to recognize and appreciate the generosity of others.
4Sharing in the blessings of singlehood
When I tell people how many kids my sisters have, they always say, “Well, you don’t have much time to catch up!” And it’s true. If I had married when I was 21, I might have my own gaggle of kids by now. But I’ve always felt a responsibility and deep love for my nieces and nephews as if they were my own. Sometimes singleness can make you feel useless and like nobody needs you, but it’s not true.
Your single years are actually quite precious in that respect. While it’s tempting to desperately count down the seconds until you’re no longer “alone,” this may be the only time in your life that you have the freedom and time to invest in wider familial relationships. While your singlehood may feel like a burden at times, it’s an opportunity to really be there for your nieces and nephews. It’s a privilege to earn a place close to their hearts and to watch them grow up. In the end, your singlehood is a blessing not only to them — but to you as well.