I became an aunt for the first time when I was 13 years old. My nephew was born in Germany while my sister and her husband lived on the military base there. Even though I didn’t meet my nephew until he was three months old, I adored him.
When he turned one, he and his parents moved back to the states. During their first summer back, I experienced the full joy of being a young aunt. My nephew finally started to get to know me, and my heart was as full as it had ever been.
My sister’s little family settled into an apartment just fifteen minutes from my parent’s home, so I had the joy of getting to know my next nephew and niece when they were younger.
All through my high school years, my mom took the kids one day a week so my sister could get a break. I helped my mom take the kids to the library, play in the backyard, and read before nap time.
At 13, I was nowhere near having kids of my own, yet I had these babies that were part of my family. I had unconditional, inexplicable love for them even before they were born. As they grew, I had overwhelming pride for every small accomplishment–first steps, the time they finally said my name correctly, and when they learned to read and write and amaze me with how smart and grown up they were.
For me, my nephews and niece are the closest experience to parenting I have. What does this mean for me now in my twenties, married, and beginning to imagine what my future family will look like? When I have my own children will I love my nephews and niece less? How will my feelings toward my sister’s children affect my care for my own babies?
I will change as an aunt when I start my family. The children I raise with my husband will steal my heart like my nephews and niece never could. For all the prayers and love I poured into the children in my life now, that passion will be infinitely multiplied for my kids.
Does all this mean I will love my nephews and niece any less? I sure hope not. Yes, my relationship with them will change. I’ll probably forget their birthdays, and I won’t spend as much time caring for them. Still, no matter how much changes in the years to come, the experience of being a young aunt able to invest totally in their lives will never go away.