What Kind of a Name is Uncle Katie Anyhow?
When my nephew Charlie was young, he had trouble understanding the distinction between aunt and uncle. With three uncles who had temporary sweethearts but few prospective aunts on the horizon, the topic wasn’t in dire need of explanation, we didn’t discuss it.
Then my brother Aaron decided to get married to Katie.
Family gatherings ensued and as a joke we introduced Katie to Charlie as Uncle Katie. It still makes me laugh. Not the pure genius of the situation, but the fact that to this day Katie is Charlie’s fourth uncle.
Which brings me to the larger issue of gender, sex and the role of the uncle. As kids get older it’s traditionally the uncle who gives extravagant gifts, takes the kids to events they might not have attended (PG movies, pro sporting events, concerts). Uncles are also - at least for the nephews - a safer source of information when it comes to more delicate subjects like girls, kissing, sex and so forth.
I’m glad my nieces and nephews are still under 10-years-old, so none of that has come up. But what has reared its head again is the subject of relationships.
Gretchen and I have been dating for a couple years and now the questions are coming in from the girls.
“Uncle Jeff, are you going to get married?”
“Uncle Jeff, when are you and Gretchen going to get married?”
“Uncle Jeff, how come you and Gretchen aren’t married?”
As you can see, the discussion starts to take on a grandmotherly tone the longer you let it sit. So here are a few ways an uncle can deal with relationship pressure from nieces. *You’ll find that the boys don’t care. They like your girlfriend, but it’s you, your scooter, your games and your presence (and presents) they prefer.
First, turn the conversation to the niece. The best way to deal with this is the same way you’d answer your mother. Distract her.
Ask your niece why she wants to see you get married. In many cases she’ll get excited about pretty dresses and flowers and get lost on a tangent. Because you took the time to talk with her about it, your niece will think that you gave her an answer and won’t push you on it for a while.
If that doesn’t work, turn the spotlight on her. Depending on the age of your niece and your stamina, you can ask her about her boyfriends and when she’s going to get married. Ask if there are any cute boys at school. Ask when she’s going to get married.
If that’s futile too, you’ve either got to ignore the question or answer it fully and truthfully (which is most often the best way anyhow).
In my case, uncle Gretchen might be on the horizon but it’s definitely far enough away that I’ve been doing the avoiding approach. After a few minutes of pestering, my nieces give up asking and get interested in something else.
Which brings up a subject for a future column...are nieces or nephews easier for an uncle to deal with?
When it comes to matters of the heart, I think the nephews win hands-down. Maybe I’ll feel differently when they finally start to get interested in things other than trucks and sports and boats and motorcycles and bugs.