Thanks to a lot of life circumstances, I’ve never really understood why being married with kids is such a desired life goal — but I LOVE being “like part of the family (though definitely not actually family)” as the eccentric auntie. I enjoy the freedom of not having to be present for the daily and long-term life, but I also enjoy being able to support the parents in their mission to teach their children life skills. Sometimes I say outrageous things (though clearly joking) so the kids can feel like they’re a part of the figuring-out process and not just caught in the adults-vs-children struggle:
- “If you’re going to pick your nose, you should eat your boogers.”
- “If you don’t go potty before we leave, we’re not going to help you when you pee your pants while we’re out in public.”
Lately I’ve been getting to know a guy friend Adam and his young family. We had dinner out one night so I could get to know the kids, and then I went over to their house afterwards to hang out through the kids’ bedtime routine. Somehow the kids were so wildly crazy-happy that my friend said to them, “You are only allowed to see Emi once a month!” (But then a week later I watched the three feral boys one night to give the parents a break.)
Adam told me later that the kids seemed really more themselves while I’m around them, which was something he noticed also happens when I sub at school. I said I’m just really straightforward and frank with the kids, which he said is why kids like me.
I guess the parents like me too, because I saw him and one of his kids a few days later and Adam said, “Do you want Auntie Emi to come have dinner with you again? Every. night?” (Probably more accurate that HE wanted me to have dinner with his kids so he could go out with his wife.)
One of the things people don’t see past the glitz and glamour of expat-living is that many families don’t have the consanguineal support network living in the same country (much less the same city, or the same neighborhood). It’s a lot easier now than it used to be, thanks to technology, but back when I was growing up, there was one whole side of the family I very rarely saw because they lived in another country. Because my family is also split into different cultures (my dad’s side of the family is Taiwanese, my mom’s is Japanese), it also meant an entire cultural heritage was missing from my identity development. What made it weird was that my schooling was entirely in American English, so as I found my own ways to grow and adapt and forge my personal identity, my mentors and role models were of yet another entirely different culture. With the concept of “blood relatives” not having much significance in my life, I grew up very aware that we make our families out of friends who come in and out of our lives.
I hung out with Adam’s family again a week later and we ended up in a shoe store after dinner. The kids were fighting (again, constantly) so Adam left his wife to deal with them and came over to where I was sitting. “My kids,” he said, “They’re so weird.” Then the youngest came over and Adam tried to get away as fast as he could. “Embarrass her, don’t embarrass us (your parents). If you break something, run to Auntie Emi and say, ‘Mommy! Mommy!'”
So I said, “We’re not related! And I don’t even like kids.”