Dear Savvy Auntie,

I have never been big on labels, but one I was looking forward to since I can remember is "Auntie."

My niece, Malia is 2 years old, and still calls me "Jamie" and she does the same with her other "Aunties" (calls them by their first names) and they do not seem to have a problem with it. And this leads me to wonder: Am I being selfish by wanting to be called "Auntie"?

When my mom, dad, sister, and brother in law (who I love dearly - he fulfilled my dream of having a brother) refer to me as "Jamie," I try to be subtle about it and say "Auntie." My sister is not one who you can just go to and say "I have a problem with this and I would prefer it if she called me "Auntie."  My parents are "Grandma” and "Papa" and my brother in law's mom is "Grandma."

This is something I have been struggling with for the last two years. Please help me.

Auntie Jamie

Dear Auntie Jamie,

You have every right to be called by the “Auntie” moniker and it’s not selfish in the slightest bit. In fact, understanding your important role as a secondary caregiver will help your niece feel safe when she is solely in your care. You’re not a friend. You’re not a playmate. You’re not a temporary babysitter. You are her aunt.

If you don’t feel like your sister will appreciate your legitimate feelings about this issue, then don’t go through her to adjust how your niece refers to you. After all, the Auntie / Niece relationship is yours to honor and celebrate together.

My suggestion is to refer to yourself as Auntie Jamie when you are around your niece. For example, “Come give Auntie Jamie a hug!” or “Malia, did you know I’m part of your family? I’m Mommy’s sister. That makes me your Auntie Jamie!”  And when you’re not speaking with your niece directly, but are in her presence, refer to yourself as Auntie, just as you probably refer to her grandparents by their monikers. “Hey Grandma. Is there any cake left for Auntie?” Or “Papa, Malia said the sweetest thing about you to her Auntie earlier today…”

If your family gives you flack, just tell them that being Malia’s aunt is the most amazing thing in the world to you. Then inform them that you are going to show off this badge of honor every day by making sure everyone knows you’re her adoring Auntie Jamie.

Auntie Jamie, I completely agree with you.

Melanie Notkin, Savvy Auntie

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