06 July, 2020

The Childless Aunt

For the next few days, I get to be an aunt (and a sister, and sister-in-law). I know I’m lucky to be an aunt, even though I bemoan the fact that I only see her once or twice a year (and I see other nieces/nephews/great-nephews much less frequently). I also know that right now, it is a privilege to be living in NZ, where we don’t have COVID-19 in the community, and so when school holidays arrive (the winter two-week break has just begun), people can travel, stay with friends and family, and socialise. So I don’t know what my suddenly (it feels like) 12-year-old niece will want to do the next few days, but there’s possibly a trip to the zoo (or will she think she’s too old for that?), to Te Papa (our national museum), some walks, definitely some shopping (there’s a birthday present to purchase together), and some eating out.

It’s always strange to meet up with nieces and nephews as they grow into pre-teens and teens. I love that age, when we can have interesting discussions about all sorts of things. So I’m looking forward to that. But it makes me feel old too, because it doesn’t feel that long ago that I was a teenager!

I know I’ll be exhausted at the end of the week after their visit. But I know I’m lucky to have another niece to get to know at that age. I was thinking recently about another niece that I had a close relationship through her pre-teens and teens, as I used to be able to visit her and her parents in Singapore on my way to/from international business trips, and they also used to come back to NZ every year. I was often the chief “clothes buyer” with my niece, preparing her for her next year at school (she was in international schools as an expat), and she had an active interest in international relations, so we would talk a lot about different issues. Now she’s almost 30 (!), is not a regular or particularly forthcoming correspondent, and whilst we are great when we see each other in person, we don’t share our lives in the same way as 10 years ago. That change was sad for me for a while, but now I’m okay with it. I know that for a while, I was a very special person in her life. And she was (and still is) in mine. I’m hoping to have a similar relationship with littlest niece, but I know I can’t force it. Still, I will enjoy seeing her grow, and be grateful for that.


  1. This is so lovely. If someone is an animal lover, you're never too old for the zoo! :) 12 is such a fun age to have a special person to spend time with, and super influential too. When I was around that age my mom's best friend at the time was my person, and she didn't have children either. She was what we called a "cookie person" -- the special, trusted adult you can spend time with who's not a parent and will say okay to that extra cookie. :) I think as a preteen and teen, (ESPECIALLY these days with all the added pressures) it's so important to have that protective factor of special adults in addition to your parents, someone to hang out with and have fun and who will listen without that parental role creeping in.

    I hope you enjoy this time!

  2. One is never to old to enjoy a day at the zoo! And, yes, I love the role as auntie to my nieces and nephews. Like you, I enjoy getting to know them as individuals and helping to challenge and engage them in discussions. Hope you are enjoying your special time in those most extraordinary of school breaks! xo

  3. I hope you have a lovely time with your niece! I look at our two nephews & it seems impossible sometimes that they're all grown up now, when I can remember things from their baby & toddler days so vividly. They're busy with their own lives and wives and starting their own families now, but I'm grateful for every moment we got to spend with them, even though I sometimes feel like I might have done an even better job, had I known for sure I would never have my own kids to dote on. I loved the funny things they said & did as kids, and I am so proud of the wonderful young men they have grown up to be. I don't know what they would say about me & dh and our roles in their lives, but being their aunt (& now a great aunt) has been one of the great joys of mine.