Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let's Hear It For The Aunties

Katie Bolick wrote an article about her status as aunt, and the importance of parents' siblings in a child's life. 
The aunt exists outside the immediate family unit, ambassador to a universe of other options, as well as — crucially — a grown-up who isn’t an authority figure or disciplinarian.
Um, she obviously hasn't been in my house, where I crack the whip harder than any parent (and the kids like it). 

She mentions Melani Notkin, who was featured in the Jewish Week article I had mentioned before: 
In April, Melanie Notkin, a social-media entrepreneur, seized on this underrepresented underclass with “Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids” (William Morrow). Her book is a spinoff of her Web site, savvyauntie.com, which aims to be an “all-inclusive guide” for what she calls PANKs: Professional Aunts No Kids. It’s a rallying girl-call in high chick-lit style: lots of hot pink and cheerful advice filed under rubrics like “Auntre-Nous: Straight Talk for the Childless Auntie” and “The Importance of QualAuntie Time.” 

I do appreciate Ms. Notkin’s auntrepreneurism. But as a chronic non-joiner, I’m not interested in becoming part of a “unifying lifestyle platform”; for me, much of the allure of being an aunt is being liberated from expectations, free to make it up as I go along, constantly surprised by the delights of the relationship, which includes not only passionate love but blessed freedom.
I hear that. I'm certainly not like any other aunt I've met before. 

But her finishing touch was a little disheartening for those who expect the niece to always be there for you:
It was only upon the arrival of Niece No. 2, in August, that I crossed over to the dark side of aunt-dom. Whereas Sophie had been the first child ever born to humankind, conferring a gravitas to all present, including secondary relatives, Annie was the final link in a now-complete nuclear unit, and me a pushy bystander. This time I skulked around the hospital room like an overdressed wallflower — an overeager mistress. I’d worn a new green frock to impress Sophie, but she didn’t even notice.
Someday, I know I'll outlive my usefulness/appeal.   
Auntie Mame (1958)

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