Aunties – Key Players in a Supreme Role
“The most important thing for children is to have an adult to turn to when it’s necessary for the child and not convenient for the adult. Youngsters can do that only with people on whom they have a special claim, and who have a special claim on them – namely family. Aunts and uncles are made for the part because “they’re related to the child but they generally don’t live under the same roof, so they are at the same time connected and detached – part of the family but not part of the household power plays.” Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University child development expert
I am partial to the feminine influence. I have served as an Uncle – not very good one at that – but Aunts seem to bring a special quality that benefit both male and female children. My Aunt Ruth was a wise woman like her mother, my Grandmother. Aunt Kay was a cigarette smoking, beer drinking version of my pious mother and she and I hung out and did house stuff together. She was cool – my mother was not. I had no Uncles who served as a good example, in fact some of them were “unsafe at any attitude.”
Parents usually trust their own siblings enough to entrust their children to their care to provide temporary relief from parenting or who can serve as a mollifier, interpreter, negotiator or more objective friend. Aunties who express compassion and care for all aspects of a child’s needs make them a key player in a supreme role.
In our age of male couples who marry and adopt, an Auntie is a great addition to the family circle as she brings a necessary element of feminine wisdom and often enhanced emotional intelligence. For motherless children, widowers would do well to find an Auntie who is not a potential mother replacement or a short term Nanny but instead, a woman who specializes in “Auntilogy.”
For women who have never had their own children, serving as an Auntie is a unparalleled opportunity for what Erik Erikson refers to as the 7th psychosocial stage of development – Generativity – a period of life when one moves from self-absorption or stagnation and begins a work to create a better world and contribute to The Greater Good. This could be achieved through serving as an Auntie in the lives of someone else’s children.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Committed, wrote this on the need for aunties: “It’s as though, as a species, we need an abundance of responsible, compassionate, childless women to support the wider community in various ways.”
So I call upon all Aunties to be key players in the development of our children by engaging in this serious and supreme role. Bring your knitting and teach children how to weave the strands of life that await them. Paint with them and help them create a canvass for their dreams to actualize. Ride your motorcycle to their household and show them what “cool” looks like. And pick up that hammer and help them build, with you, their first of many playhouses that will someday house their families – or perhaps, another emerging Auntie.