The following is an excerpt from Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids by Savvy Auntie founder, Melanie Notkin (William Morrow / HarperCollins 2011).
As a proud member of the American Family Village, a Savvy Auntie is entitled to her share of self-evident truths and inalienable rights. Follow these fundamentals for getting the most out of auntiehood (no matter where you live, how involved you are in your nieces’ and nephews’ lives, or what kind of family you come from).
Principle #1: Aunthood Is a Gift
Just as a Savvy Auntie is fortunate for each and every niece and nephew who enters her life, the love she shares with these children and their families is an incredibly generous and precious commodity. Although an adoring auntie may feel like she can’t help granting her loved ones’ every wish and desire, the truth is that everything a Savvy Auntie offers them is a gift. Therefore, a Savvy Auntie knows she is always to be valued and respected in kind.
Principle #2: The Auntie Is Not the Parent
A Savvy Auntie knows her place in the family and that Mom and Dad’s rules and parenting methods come first. No matter what a Savvy Auntie may think they could be doing better, she knows that parenting is not easy and that it’s not her place to judge. However, when a parent asks for an auntie’s suggestions and thoughts, she is only too happy to help talk things through and find the right answer. (See Principle #9.)
Principle #3: Rules Are Rules (Even in Your Care)
When an auntie’s in charge of the kids, Mom and Dad’s rules still apply. A Savvy Auntie discusses rules with the parents beforehand and asks for compromises when they might be too difficult for her to uphold. (Hey, parents have been known to break their own rules from time to time!)
Principle #4: Priorities Change, Not Love
When a sister or best friend becomes a mom, her ability to always be there for you will probably change. A Savvy Auntie knows that sisterhood and friendship are organic, transforming and growing as life goes on. Just because Mom’s schedule is not the same, that doesn’t mean her love is any different. No matter how bad the breakup, no matter how exciting the new job, a Savvy Auntie always strives to be flexible in her expectations (as long as she knows she is respected too).
Principle #5: A Savvy Auntie Never Looks Good in Green
Envy isn’t pretty. Whether her younger sister is pregnant (again!) or the children’s other auntie is able to see them more often, a Savvy Auntie is confident in all that she is and all that she offers. After all, there’s little to be envious about when she has the most amazing nieces and nephews on the planet.
Principle #6: Respect the Parents, Respect Their Privacy
A Savvy Auntie loves nothing more than gushing about or showing off her most precious nieces and nephews. Most likely, Mom and Dad don’t mind at all when the kids’ auntie shares photos or stories of the children with close family and colleagues. But before posting pics to more public places like Facebook and Flickr, a Savvy Auntie is sure to ask Mom and Dad how they feel about it first. Likewise, a Savvy Auntie knows that confiding in a close friend about family matters, or even using an anonymous handle to garner feedback from an online forum, is much different than broadcasting a family matter to whomever will listen. A Savvy Auntie is always discreet.
Principle #7: A Savvy Auntie Manages Expectations (Hers, the Kids’, and the Parents’)
A Savvy Auntie doesn’t promise her nieces and nephews that she’ll come over for Christmas and then schedule other plans; that would be mismanaging the kids’ expectations. A Savvy Auntie likewise keeps her own expectations in check by acknowledging that she is going to make mistakes and missteps along the way. When she does, she apologizes and remembers that she is not a perfect auntie. To preserve the life she loves outside of her family, a Savvy Auntie sets boundaries as needed to keep her well-being intact and to avoid getting in over her head. For example, does her niece want a bouncy castle at her birthday party? Savvy Auntie may be happy to chip in, but makes it clear to Mom and Dad that she can’t foot the entire bill. A Savvy Auntie never lets her nieces and nephews become her only source of happiness.
Principle #8: Enjoy Every Minute
A Savvy Auntie knows that children grow up too fast. She takes the time to smell their strawberry-shampoo-scented hair. She never forgets how precious they are.
Principle #9: Savvy Is As Savvy Does
Knowledge is a Savvy Auntie’s best friend. She seeks expert advice (at SavvyAuntie.com!) and is always looking for ways to become better educated about her nieces and nephews’ needs. (Hint: This book is a good start!)
When can you forfeit your Savvy Auntie principles? All bets are off when the parents or legal guardians have made life for a niece or nephew unsafe. If you witness abuse or neglect, it’s your duty to investigate, respond, or report it as needed. Safety first.
Photo: britrock photographyPublished: July 6, 2016