On Being a Savvy Auntie

19 Mar 2010, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in non-food

It’s no secret that being a mother is not at the top of my priority list. Given the fact that most of my plants are bent over, begging for attention and care, this seems like a good plan. But it doesn’t mean I don’t melt have an affinity for my 9 nieces, nephews and great-nephews. At times like this, when I’ve been working almost ’round the clock for weeks, and could really use a hug from a little person, I miss them terribly. I feel like I’m missing important stuff, like my godson’s touchdowns, or the twins’ wrestling matches and fivehundredwordaminute stories. Smiles and giggles. OK, and yelling and screaming — but that’s how they’re built. I’ve learned to accept it.

When I learned about Melanie Notkin’s site, Savvy Auntie, I thought, Hey, I’m not the only one who feels this way! Melanie has created a community where we can seek and offer advice/ideas, and a place where we can share our experience from this very unique perspective. I revel in being an aunt because these are children I adore and sometimes crave, but I get to give them back. It’s like a rental car, but way better.

My (non)kids range from 1 1/2 to 31 years old, and I’ve been around them as long as they’ve been around. Fed them, changed them, walked the floors with them, helped them learn to read. I’ve had all of them with me in the kitchen at some point, sniffing cardamom, rolling meatballs or trying to pronounce “gastronomy.”

And let us not forget the one-liners, such as Zachary’s famous quip, upon being asked to wash his hands before we baked: “We need to wash our hands so the bread doesn’t taste like ‘hand,’ right Jen?”

But most importantly, because I don’t have my own children to distract me, I have the opportunity to be there for them in a different way: As a helping hand, or someone to listen if they need advice. I live for this. That I can contribute to their happiness, and help create who they are as human beings, is worth every minute of my time. I love them ridiculously and endlessly.

Are you an auntie (or an uncle) like me? Do you revel in the rental kid? Do tell, especially if you’ve got some good one-liners.

  • Lest the math gave you a brain cramp there, I’m only 6 years older than the oldest. Otherwise I’d look ridiculously good for my age. :)

  • erica

    While I’m not an aunt, I do have simaliar feelings for the children of friends. I love hanging out with the little tykes but am glad that I can give them back.

  • The down-time rejuvenates us for the next round. :)

  • Lori

    Great post! I have 3 newphews and a niece, who often come for weekend visits. On one particular weekend, my at the time 5yr old newphew asked me “Auntie Lori, how come you don’t got no little kids for us to play with?” I wonder if it were his mother, or my mother, that put him up to asking lol.

  • Ha! Once my nephew Alex was watching me work at my desk (at home), and he said, “Jen, how come you don’t have a job?” I then educated him on the delights of the virtual company and technology — and working in pajamas. :)

  • Carrie

    I’m Auntie to a three year old wee girl whom I don’t see often enough (my sister and her family lives about 300 miles away). But when I do she never fails to make me giggle with what she says.

    When in the car on the way home from my niece’s 3rd birthday party, my sister commented that it had been such a busy day that she must be exhausted, saying, “… and you’ve not had your nap today, have you?” to which my niece replied, “No. I’m quite gutted about that actually.”

    It really made us all laugh that she had picked up the term “quite gutted” and knew how to use it in context!

    She also knows how to put us all in our place. After I gave her a bath, she said to my dad, “Grampa, Auntie Carrie washed my hair!”. When my dad said, “Oooh that’s good!” she replied with a very stern, “No. I didn’t like it.”

  • lol @ “quite gutted” !!!

    I’m Auntie to 3 gorgeous nephews (4,3 & 1) who I just adore and who completely crack me up all the time! I’m getting married later this year and my 4 yo nephew has told his mum that he refuses to wear his Bob the Builder underwear because he is ‘saving them to wear to the wedding’.

  • Jenn,

    I think it is awesome for kids to have adults besides their parents that they can rely on. A kid might be more willing to talk to Aunt Jen about a problem (that he might keep from his parents) and get good adult advice. I hope Livy will have an adult like that around!


  • Kelly, I can always arrange a quarterly meeting with her. :) You’re right, though. If I can help them to open up and get those troubling things out of their minds and into a safe place for discussion, sometimes that can make all the difference.

  • I have no blood nieces or nephews, but our dear friends have kids to whom we are Auntie Mon and Uncle Ed. We love those kids like we never knew we could love any kid. It’s amazing. My husband went very prematurely grey in his 20s. (Silver actually), but still has a little bit of dark hair intermingled with the white on the back of his head, down near his neck.

    One night Ed was babysitting our nephew Cole, who was about five at the time, and Cole walked around the back of Ed’s chair after dinner and apparently noticed the tiny bit of “salt and pepper” coloring in Ed’s hair and said (in I’m sure was the sweetest little surprised voice), “UNCLE ED, YOUR HAIR’S TURNING BLACK!”

    OMG we still giggle about that and tell that story all the time It’s just so cute. They sure do call ’em like they see ’em!!

  • When I lived in Chicago, my niece C.C. would come and visit from Toronto. This was a yearly treat for both of us. Since I did not see her often and knowing she lived by my other sister, Auntie Em, I tried my best to make a lasting impression every trip. After a long afternoon of shopping and tea at American Girl, C.C. and I were walking down Michigan Ave when she announced that “Auntie LeeAnne, you may not be my favorite Aunt, but you are certainty the Aunt that spends the most money on me!”
    I replied, “C.C. that I would be very happy with that title if she so wished.” Then we hurried off to Marshall Fields to look at purses.

  • I am loving all these stories!! Jennifer, thanks for sharing with all your Auntie readers!

    Monica- we call you an Auntie By Choice or ABC! You don’t need blood to be an auntie, just love ;)

    Melanie Notkin / Savvy Auntie

  • Heather

    I have one niece, Sabrina, and she’s four years old. She’s always been a very precocious child, along with being extremely sassy (which gets her into trouble quite often!), and she’s more than a little spoiled.

    My favorite story to tell happened about a year ago. Brina was on my lap in the computer chair, we were playing Sims 2 (or the ‘baby game’, as she calls it). She was trying to get situated in my lap and finally said in exasperation, “Sissy, I keep slipping off of your fat leg!” Before I could think to reprimand her for it, it was too late – I’d already burst out laughing.

  • Thanks so much to all of you for sharing these funny stories. It is in the innocence of delivery that I get the greatest laughs. :)

  • Great post as usual, Jen.

    I, too have both adult and child nieces and a nephew. The two youngins’ both had similar issues with their big burly grizzly bear of an uncle when they were toddlers. Billy (now 9) would do “the silent cry” whenever I entered a room – you know the one – face red, head vibrating violently, streaming tears and even an accusatory finger point at the source of his terror. But never the first peep, he was literally scared quiet, vocal chords paralyzed with fear.

    Ruthie (7) was more more logical in handling the situation. The instant I would enter the room she would scurry into the lap of the closest trusted adult, bury her head in their chest and fall immediately to sleep.

    Today Billy and I are buddies. Just as his grandfather (my brother) took me to my first football game, the annual Senior Bowl college all-star game, I took Billy to his first football game, also the Senior Bowl.

    Ruthie has fallen in love with baking. My career as a chef has fast catapulted me to the top of the favorite uncle list. For Christmas I got her a child-sized chef coat embroidered with, “Ruthie. Pastry Chef.” She barely had the box open when she spotted the first Chinese knot, that quickly she realized what the gift was and bolted to her mother to try it on.

  • I love it! I got the twins aprons and chef hats with hot chile peppers on them for our Cooking from A to Z podcast, which I’m eager to resurrect — if I could get them to stand still long enough. :)