A friend teased me about it on Facebook:
“Only Christie would go on vacation to see someone else’s kids.”
It’s true. I left snotty noses and poopie diapers and midnight lullabies, so I could experience more of the same with my sister’s boys on the other side of the continent. And it was wonderful!
I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t about me being a saintly, mother-to-all-children. Quite the opposite, in fact. The best part of nephews and nieces (and I imagine grandchildren as well), is that I can enjoy all the cuteness and sweetness and snuggliness, without the burden of responsibility. Sure, I tried to pitch in here and there, but when the baby was screaming in the night, it wasn’t on me to fix it. I enjoyed playing with the just-turned-2-year-old until he got out of sorts, then Mom or Dad had to step in.
The boys, age 2 and 4 months, are beautiful and brilliant and hilarious (frankly this applies to all my nephews and nieces). I’m sure that they are normal to objective outsiders, but as an Auntie it is my right to see only Amazing. What do those objective outsiders know anyway? These aren’t “Other People’s Kids”, neither are they “My Own Kids”, but some happy middle ground which is heavy on the enjoyment and light on dealing with poop/vomit/snot.
Not only did both my daughter and I enjoy the babies (sorry 2-year-old, you’re still a baby to me), but we got to see my sister and her husband in their natural habitat. If that habitat happens to be the historic and picturesque city of Boston, all the better. Colleen and Miguel have often visited us, but this was our first time at their place.
With a 10 year difference between us my relationship with my youngest sister has always been somewhat maternal. I was moved out and married by the time she was 9, so I missed out on a lot of her growing up. Even though she is now a mother, a wife, a teacher, a confident, brilliant woman with not 1, but 2 Masters degrees… I still think of her as the pretty baby I loved to spoil.
It was funny (and familiar) whenever she opened her mouth and out came our Mother’s words:
“Use your gentle touches.”
“Better too much food, than not enough.”
“I’m sure it’ll all work out.”
As entertaining as it is for me to see our similarities (we also have the same taste in books and movies), it’s the ways she parents differently that I appreciated most. She’s not a routine person, so everyday unfolds differently according to their needs. She hasn’t tied herself into knots about breast vs. bottles – she uses both. She doesn’t keep one eye on the clock at all times, like I usually do. She takes life as it comes and doesn’t fuss too much about the details.
It wouldn’t work for me. It wouldn’t work for my kids. Though I hope a little flexibility rubbed off while I was there.
This is why maternal instincts aren’t one-size-fits-all. Because it’s not about a right way or a wrong way, but what a family needs.
I’ll confess, I’ve never really seen Colleen as an adult. Not when she married her bold and brash Latino (the perfect foil to her unflappable calm). Not hearing about the intriguing ethnomusicology research project she’d done in Spain (she’s always been smart). Not even when I held my baby nephew in my arms so she could get some rest (it still seemed like she was playing house). She’s always been my baby sister.
Watching her, in her own home, juggling 2 busy little men and an ambitious soon-to-be Dentist husband… I couldn’t help but see the competent grown up she’s become. She’ll always be my baby sister, but now she’s my peer. And my friend.
The best part of Boston, for me, wasn’t the pink and purple polka-dotted amphibious vehicle we toured the town in, though the Duck tour is definitely on my “do again” list. It wasn’t the amazing architecture, or the impressive Harvard campus, or the fall colours in the countryside as we picked our own apples, or even the interesting people from all over the world who attended my nephew’s second birthday party.
The best part was seeing how my sister’s family works.
And kissing the baby’s bald head.
And being “Tia Chriiiis-tie.”
So here’s me, wishing Boston were just a little bit closer to home. Next year they move to Chicago… Suddenly I have a hankering to see that city too. 🙂