On Being an Ant..oops…Aunt

I’m an Aunt, with a capital A. Be careful with the spelling. I’m not ant. Or am I? Ants have colonized nearly every landmass on Earth. The same may be said for Aunts. Ants thrive in most ecosystems, as do Aunts. Success for ants is due to their social organization, and their ability to use whatever resource is at hand. That’s me. Ants have a division of labor that depends on communication between each individual. I fail to see a conflict when we speak of Aunts.

Fire ants
Ants are cool!

The division of labor for Aunts is to relieve the labor of parents. We accomplish this eagerly. The youngest of my nieces and nephews is 10-years old. I was right there in the delivery room when she was born. Our bond was thus forged. Though a plane ride is required to reunite us I witnessed most of the milestones: her first word (Jetta, the mean, oops, misunderstood girl from Clifford the Big Red Dog books). I watched her wobble and take that first step. I was present the first time she saw a squirrel, and screamed in fright, then attempted to scale the height of my leg. Early on, I began to call her Muffin, and still do.

Once, when her parents escaped for the weekend she woke up crying in the night. She was on the cusp of one, and had just begun to walk. When I appeared in the doorway her tears instantly abated. She scrambled out of the covers, stood tottering in her footed Bob the Builder pj’s, opened her arms wide, and rushed to me. I carried her upstairs to her parents’ king-sized bed, though we would have managed comfortably on a twin. I woke to the soft pressure of an outstretched arm at my throat, and a Siamese cat curled into the crook of my arm. By way of explanation for the previous night’s fear, she confided that a Heffalump was out to get her.

Pooh's Heffalump Movie
Doesn't look so scary..

One Halloween when she was 5, she and I sashayed through the mall. Though she is not a girly-girl (dinosaurs preoccupied her for years) and disdains anything pink, on this night she dressed up as a princess (in blue), replete with heels that clacked along the tile floors, and garnered her much attention. Muffin is far more social than I am, so we were obliged to linger, and chat with a significant number of the merchants doling out sweets.

The highlight of our year is a three-week block of time between summer camp and school when Muffin boards the plane to California. We swim in the Russian River, picnic in the apple orchard, attend the county fair, and hit Screamin’ Mimi’s Ice Cream shop half a dozen times. She even looks forward to a yoga class.

Vanilla ice cream cone I bought at Camp Manito...
Yummy!

I also have a namesake niece. Our birthdays are in August, a week apart. When she was two, at a joint birthday celebration, she had a sudden realization. Eyes wide, she sputtered incredulously, “We got the boff names!” If Steph chooses to be a mother, I will embarrass her yet again, and repeat it to her kids. Sometimes we refer to her as Little Steph, sometimes as Steph2. She and I play Scrabble on our phones. My texting skills have improved dramatically due to our contact.

I regret that I didn’t spend more time with other nieces and nephews when they were young. But, I was young then too, filled with wanderlust, traipsing around the globe, carefree, or working so I could maintain my carefree wanderlust. So I savor every moment I spend with young Muffin as we travel through the years together. And I savor every message I receive from Steph2. I hold those moments close to my heart. I like to believe that for each other we are the North Star; we always know where to find the other.

An artist's impression of Sirius A and Sirius ...
We know where to find each other.

If I were an ant, I’d choose to be a soldier ant. Soldier ants protect their queen, defend the colony, gather food and attack enemy colonies when threatened. I’d hope to be that proud soldier ant, the one that guarded her young niece, and older namesake niece too, as needed.

Thanks for listening!

girl and dog with hat
Muffin & best friend a few years ago
steph on train
Steph2
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34 Responses to On Being an Ant..oops…Aunt

  1. Aída says:

    these kind of post are always inspiring and i prefer to read quality content so i’m happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post

  2. Elis says:

    perhaps this is one of the most interesting blogs that i have ever seen. interesting article, funny comment. keep it up!

  3. This truly lovely, heartwarming post almost makes me wish my grown daughter was little again so I could scoop you up and kidnap you, Steph, so you could be her adopted Aunt.

    Your little niece is indeed very fortunate to have you. :)
    Super Earthling recently posted..Like a Filthy, Dirty, Disgusting, Obsessed, Dedicated, Fat Mannequin with a Cheap, Dusty WigMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Thank you. And I’d be happy to be an adopted Aunt as I very much enjoy my nieces and nephews. Thanks for reading, Super Earthling. I just love that handle!

  4. Kristin says:

    My kids love the book “Two Bad Ants.” Just my random addition to the post.

    My kids also love their Tante Katja. In fact, after her last visit, they shared that they love her more than they love me. She will not be visiting for a while. That is all.
    Kristin recently posted..The TalkMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Kristin, that is funny… A testament to how cool Tante Katja is! And Two Bad Ants, rocks! Thanks for reading.

  5. You bring to light a role in families that is not often celebrated. Maybe you can start a new phenomenon in the blogosphere–Aunty Bloggers (instead of Mommy Bloggers). Because, as your post clearly illustrates, aunts are very important, special, and significant to the life of a child. Mommy’s don’t always get it right, and knowing there is another wise adult available to be supportive is quite a gift!
    Kimberly S. (Sperk*) recently posted..The Storybooks Got It WrongMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Sperk, it’s always nice to see you! I like your idea about Aunty Bloggers. I could keep up the posts with that in mind. I have lots of stories about my travels with my nieces and nephews. And with the older ones it is true that to have another adult for a that support is valuable. I get that feedback and I’m more than happy to provide it. Thanks for reading.

  6. Susan says:

    this so perfectly describes how i feel about my nieces and nephews. thank you, thank you, thank you for putting my feelings into words!
    Susan recently posted..GraceMy Profile

  7. It’s wonderful that you have such a great relationship with your nieces. So special.
    Michelle Longo recently posted..Big Kid.My Profile

  8. When my Noah was born, my sister (who was in the delivery room until the very very end when they vacuumed him out) fell instantly madly in love. I didn’t quite understand how she could love him as much as she said until she had her first son. Oh my goodness there is something about your sister’s children. It’s like second-best. I love my 2 nephews with everything I have.

    Great post.

    • Steph says:

      Hi Kim, That’s it…I sometimes feel, especially with Muffin, that I am her second mother, as I’ve been around since Day 1. It’s wonderful that you have that bond with your sister’s kids and they with yours. Thanks for reading!

  9. Aunt is a lovely mediated distance – not with the promise of spoiled rotten, like grandma, but in the sense of ally, friend, conspirator. I love my aunts (I’ve got five); they helped me become the person I am. Lovely.
    deborah l quinn recently posted..Happy Mother’s DayMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Deborah. You hit it, exactly. Ally, friend and conspirator, that is how I think about it, as well. And not just think about it. Steph2 and I have our secrets. So, if her mother is reading this, don’t ask!

  10. I love this! And I am terribly envious of your Aunthood. One brother and he has produced nada for me! Blessed to be a mother, however, and I look forward to being a spoiling-rotten grandma.
    Louise Ducote recently posted..Throw the BallMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Louise. A grandma is a good thing to be, too! I wonder if your brother is a good Uncle? A lot to be said for them, as well… Thanks for reading.

  11. heidi says:

    Oh, I just loved this. What a fantastic aunt you are! You put me to shame for sure.
    And that last paragraph? Wow.
    heidi recently posted..what to sayMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Heidi. Thanks for the nice words. Something tells me, (might be you own blog) that you are a cool, and thoughtful Aunt!

  12. Lenore says:

    This is great, Stephanie. When I was in college, my sisters (and sister-in-law) started having kids. I didn’t become a fun Aunt until I rid myself of my own young wanderlust ways. I missed the infancy of my nieces and nephews to a certain degree (we all lived in the same state), but I was around for their school years, and I’m still around. What a joy it is to be an Aunt. And by Aunt I do mean, “au”nt. Though I liked the ‘ant’ reference. Nicely played!
    Lenore recently posted..Conversations between Neighbors :: A Comparative StudyMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Lenore, thanks for the nice comment. It is indeed a joy to be an aunt, and it’s never too late to make up for lost time. I try to do that as much as I can. Thanks for reading.

  13. I called my first son Muffin in utero and it has stuck around for a while – just seems to encapsulate something sweet and soft and innocent. I’m embarrassed to reveal this but the book Committed (Eliz Gilbert) has a whole section on famous and influential aunts and a pretty tight argument for celebrating these relationships.
    Kim@Mamamzungu recently posted..Old Lady McGrumpypantsMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Kim, Funny coincidence about the Muffin nickname. Sweet. And though I never thought to pick up Committed, you just gave me a reason to at least read the section on Aunts. No need to be embarrassed, though. :) Thanks for reading!

  14. Awww. Love this ode to family and the special bond that aunts can have with their siblings’ kids. Sweet. Erin
    Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms recently posted..10 Reasons Being A Kid with A Mom Who Blogs RocksMy Profile

  15. Yes! I’m an aunt, too, to one adorable little boy. We live miles apart, but I feel the connection with him that you speak of here. It’s definitely a special relationship we ants, er…aunts have :)

    Great post!
    Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy recently posted..High NotesMy Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Katie. It is a special relationship, isn’t it? Adds another dimension to our lives. I’m ready for more… Thanks for reading!

  16. Robbie says:

    What wonderful relationships you have developed with your nieces!
    Robbie recently posted..Ten Reasons being a Kid ROCKSMy Profile

  17. christina says:

    i was an Aunt, too. i mean i still am, of course- even a Great Aunt! in fact my nieces and nephews are the main reason i decided to have a child of my own so i really do understand where you’re coming from and the signifcance of the Aunt. i just wish my sister and sister in law appreciated it, too. my 2 year old doesn’t know either of them. :(
    christina recently posted..not a Robot so a Bitch?My Profile

    • Steph says:

      Hi Cristina. I’m sorry to hear that. What a loss for everyone. We Aunts add perspective, and a whole lot of love. I hope they come around and want to get to know your 2-year old before much more time passes. Thanks for reading.

  18. This post is very sweet; I love extended family relationships like these. I had an aunt I was very close with, who passed less than a year ago. I like to think she’d have the same kinds of reflections about our friendship that you express here. :)
    hollow tree ventures recently posted..A Fork, a Sign, and a Cloud walk into a bar…My Profile

  19. Pin says:

    Very touching. :)

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