Monday, 25 September 2017

Being an aunt

Being an aunt when you're living a No Kidding life can be beautiful and special and bittersweet. Being an aunt of a child with serious health issues makes it even more complicated. I watch my sister deal with the health issues every morning and evening when important and time-consuming routines that are a chore to her nine-year-old are necessary, and I watch her deal with the issues at every meal, hearing every cough, and probably every time she looks at her daughter, and feel nothing but respect for her daily battles. I take on these tasks gladly when I become the care-giver, as I was this weekend when we drove seven or so hours north to relieve my sister and brother-in-law so they could attend a conference (related to my niece's condition).

And in between the care-giving, we made a cushion together, had dinner at our niece's favourite restaurant complete with neon mocktails, played badminton on the lawn, chased a young heifer that had got loose from next door, watched her play basketball on Friday night and go on her riding lesson the next morning, saw her practice her gymnastics routine, and all the other things you do with an active nine-year-old. Then we curled up with the cat, and watched Moana together.

When we left this morning - too soon, but necessary, because we have elderly relatives at this end of the island who need care-giving too - it was with sadness that we won't see her again for a while. But there are also complicated and confused emotions, knowing that I wouldn't wish my sister's concerns on anyone, and feeling relief that I am not the one primarily bearing that burden, but also knowing that there is great joy in her role as well as great fear and sadness, and that I would have willingly born these myself, if I had had the chance.


  1. That must be very challenging for your sister and her husband. You should like a lovely aunt!

  2. Oh my heart Mali! The joy mixed with fear and concern for parenting a child with health issues. Your perspective is especially interesting. Those who compare the life you have vs. your sister's are complete morons because there is no comparison.

    It sounds like it was a lovely visit and I wish you so many, many more.

  3. This is just beautiful, the happy and the sad all mixed in together. I'm glad you had a great visit (I still have to watch Moana), it sounds like you have a special bond with your niece.

  4. It sounds like you had a wonderful visit. That must be so hard for your sister.

  5. serious health issues and a nine year old is a difficult combination, so very glad to read of all other activities you did. And i think living life to the fullest means taking in all these emotions.
    Did you love Moana as much as I do? Suzy is still too young (or the movie too long and a bit scary) but I have watched it at least twice now. It makes me feel closer to your end of the world too.

  6. I love the way you're able to see both sides of this -- the willingness to do all that's necessary and the relief that you don't always have to. And like Jess says, the happy/sad.

    What a gift you gave your sister and your niece.

  7. this sounds like a lovely mix of love and concern.
    I always see myself as the second wind for my nieces and nephews...
    wanting to be something a little different than mom and dad can be but just as concerned and engaged...but in a different way.
    You being available for your sister is the most important part...I am sure they were at ease with you being there for them..and allowed them to focus on new information about their daughter. Be kind to yourself as the second wash of emotions often hits a few days later.

  8. I meant to comment on this when I first read it and then didn't have time, so I'm glad Mel put it in the Round Up to remind me.

    This was such a lovely post. I was lucky enough growing up to have a No Kidding aunt- it is such a special relationship. My other aunts were (and still are) also wonderful, but my No Kidding aunt was amazing, in no small part because she had the time and space to be so available to us.

    Watching others deal with health concerns of someone you love is hard. I'm so glad you were able to spell your sister and brother-in-law for a few days. I am sure they valued it immeasurably.

  9. Love reading your posts about your niece & the special relationship you have with her. :) Being an aunt is no substitute for being a mother, but it's something special on its own merits -- and your niece's health issues certainly add an extra dimension to that relationship. As Cristy said above, here's to many, many more visits. <3

  10. This is such a beautiful, poignant post... it made me want to cry... thank you for giving us a snapshot into your all-too-brief visit with your lovely niece.