I’m a Fun Aunt. The job of a Fun Aunt is to take you to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter, let you taste a beer, not make you brush your teeth, take you to a baseball game, and make sure you stay up past your bedtime. I do those things because they make you happy, and because tomorrow, you’re going back to your mom.
It doesn’t hurt to skip a shower once in a while, or eat Little Debbie cakes for dinner, or say as many swear words as you can in 15 minutes. These things are harmless because tomorrow, you’ll go back to your regular life, and your mom will make sure you take a shower and brush your teeth, have clean clothes and nutritious food, and wake up in time for school. She will drive your carpool, pick up your prescriptions, and make sure you feed your dog.
Fun Aunt’s only responsibility is to make sure you have fun, don’t hurt yourself, and get home safely.
I learned to be a Fun Aunt from Julie, my mother’s sister. Before she had kids of her own, she would take me to the zoo and to movies and tell me secrets about her fun adult life. She was a carefree version of my mother, one without three other kids and a mortgage to worry about.[pullquote]Is this constant, overwhelming worry what regular parents feel all the time? Fun Aunts don’t get overwhelmed and Fun Aunts don’t worry. [/pullquote]
When my sister had kids, I looked back on the weekends I spent with Julie and followed her example. This strategy has paid off so far; I love my nephews completely, and they never forget to call me on my birthday. As they’ve gotten older, they don’t spend the night at my house much anymore, but they know I’m here if they need anything.
Recently, I’ve found myself the temporary guardian of these two adolescent boys, now 16 and 12. I’ve known these kids their whole lives, but I’ve never been in charge of their well-being in quite this way before.
For right now, I’m no longer Fun Aunt; I’m Resident Adult. I’m paying bills and making groceries, making sure laundry gets washed, and insisting that dirty dishes be rinsed and put in the dishwasher. I drive carpool and check homework. I nag and pick up behind them.
I am stressed sometimes and not so much fun. I try to mix the Fun Aunt stuff in: cool Christmas presents, a trip to the zoo, letting them have unlimited use of the main TV and stay up all night watching it on weekends.
When my sister told me she needed to go away for six weeks, I immediately volunteered for this job, not fully understanding to what I was committing. Up until now, I have been occasionally, temporarily responsible for their happiness and fun. Now, I am responsible for their safety, their well-being, their grades, their happiness, the roof over their heads, and the food in their stomachs.
I’ve learned to worry like never before. The teenager is out with his girlfriend past the time they said they’d be home. Are they broken down? Have they been in an accident? Are they up to no good?
The 12-year-old got knocked in the head with a high heel, and he thinks he has a concussion. Is he overreacting? Is he bleeding internally?
The cable bill didn’t get paid and the car insurance is late. Which one should we pay? Christmas is around the corner. Can we afford the electronic gadgets the kids want?
Is this constant, overwhelming worry what regular parents feel all the time? Fun Aunts don’t get overwhelmed and Fun Aunts don’t worry.
But Fun Aunts don’t hear “I love you, Aunt Kristy” every night before bed, either. Fun Aunts don’t get to teach the kids something new every day, or see their faces light up at the sight of their Christmas presents, or get a quick kiss on the cheek in the carpool lane when no other kids are looking.
Fun Aunts are fun for a while, but parenthood just might be where the fun really begins.