Dear Savvy Auntie,

I'm having some trouble. I really love my nieces and want them to see the reality of the world. My sister wants to protect them (very selectively) from certain truths. I can't be too specific here, but the essence is I find myself muzzled on many visits. I'll be trying to teach my nieces something and suddenly be nudged to stop the topic.

Now, I should mention that I'm a teacher and work with kids my nieces' ages all the time. I want my nieces to be smart like "city kids." All the information their parents are trying to keep from them is happening at school all the time. My sister is striving for some kind of innocence which is more like a head-in-the-sand approach. I'm not trying to provoke reactions. It's just that my sister and her husband feel I bring up subjects they don't like. (For example, I might ask how long most cats live. Since the girls love their cat, they are then faced with the reality that their cat will die. I wasn't chided that time, but it was close.)

I think you need to teach kids at 10 what you used to tell them at 13. They're maturing so fast these days.

Two things bug me the most. All my experience with children over many years is consistently negated by my siblings. (How can you know? You're not a parent.) I'm a wise person and very successful in my mentoring roles with kids. I don't like being muzzled in front of my nieces.

Secondly, I feel that my sister and husband could pull the plug on the closeness I've developed with my nieces at any time, and decide to end the relationship. Help.

Silenced Aunt

Dear Silenced Aunt,

This issue is our most often posed. I want to begin by offering you sympathy for your feelings and understanding for how difficult it is to believe you are right. However, you are not IN the right. Parents have the right to decide how their children are raised, unless they are physically and mentally abusive. What you think and believe your nieces must be previewed by their parents and approved or not by them. As you said, you want your relationship with the girls to continue.

The cemetery of auntie relationships all have the same gravestones..."I was right!"

Your intentions for the girls' development are being governed by your beliefs. Their growth and interests reflect their parents until they become teenagers and begin to develop their own tastes, values, and preferences.they may (read probably) rebel and reject the parental persuasions.
I suggest you have a talk with your sister and ask her how she would like you to interact with her daughters. Typically rigidity arises out of insecurity; a conversation acknowledging your sister's  authority may minimize her insecurity.

P.S. Take a look at the City Mouse and the Country Mouse...a wonderful children's classic book.

Best of Luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

Photo: B-D-S
Published: January 12, 2016


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