I'm currently writing an article for Mother's Day about mamas who don't have their own mothers around. It's fascinating to me that people can raise children when their own moms are not retired, living locally, emotionally involved or alive. So, you have that happy read to look forward to. In the meantime it got me thinking about another valuable player in the extended family - the childless aunt.
I had a childless aunt who we tragically lost to breast cancer a dozen years ago when she was only 46-years-old. For the time that we did have her, she was a committed babysitter, sleepover participator, baseball and hockey game attendee, dance recital enthusiast and crazy eights player. She set out to make each and every one of her 16 nieces and nephews feel tremendously special and did a decent job of it.
My children are fortunate to have a collection of seriously invested and interested aunts and uncles. But there is a unique relationship they have with my childless sister, affectionately known to all as "Mare".
A couple of weeks ago, my Number One Son announced that Monday was his favourite day of the week. It made no sense to me - Monday is the first day back at school and on Monday evenings he attends a two-hour reading group. Not exactly a nine-year-old boy's idea of fun since reading group is a far cry from hockey games or Pokemon battles. He reminded me that on Mondays my sister, Mare, picks him up from reading group and takes him for a burger before returning him home.
During their time together, my boy gets to tap into Mare's knowledge and experience, which is wide and varied. I'm not sure why or how, but Mare is fluent in the language of "nine-year-old boy" and can speak in length and detail about Star Wars, sharks, retro comic books, cartoons, etc. Clearly, it just doesn't get much better than that!
When we are all at the cottage, I'm fairly occupied keeping the place tidy, fixing lunch and settling babies for naps. While I'm doing those little tasks, Mare is swimming with the kids, setting up treasure hunts or collecting bugs with them. My kiddos think that my older sister is a teenager.
When we become mamas, we suddenly recognize and value our relationships in different ways. In preparing the Mother's Day article it became quite clear to me that those of you who are doing this mama gig without a mother OR a childless sister are pretty impressive. Kudos to you - I don't know how you do it.