One day it happened. I was just minding my own business, as one does on a Sunday afternoon. But then I got a text.
It could have been innocuous, there was a typo in it because of course there was in one of the more important texts I'll ever receive. But this is my sister we're talking about, where spelling and grammar are more of a suggestion than an instruction.
Either way, there I was, staring at my screen.
Open mouth wonder at the words 'It's a girlb'
Obviously, as I smiled to myself in realisation, 'girlb' could easily be translated into 'girl', and there I was. I'd done nothing, in particular, that morning to warrant it, but that day I was transformed. I migrated from Sister and Daughter to one step above. Aunt.
And what a transformation it was
Also, another point, and I'm sure it's one that everyone thinks is true when they are an aunt for the first time, but only I am truly correct. My niece is the cutest thing I've ever seen. Hands down, no question. Period.
Like, objectively, I knew that bows were cute. And baby shoes and onesies. The whole shebang, like I was aware that they were great things. But then it all changed when I saw them in person. For a person that was directly related to me. That I had responsibilities over.
Who may come to rely on me
This was a very bold first step into my future. one branch of my life has begun growing. In 20 years' time, there will be another fully-fledged adult in my life, but for now, I'm in the heady middle ground between 'Parent of my own child' and 'babysitter'. I have more dignity than the latter but less authority than the former, and much less stress.
Essentially, I'm there if the happy couple needs me, but I also largely just get to show up for family events and swoop in and enjoy the best that babies have to offer. I'm like the teenager that only goes to their friends' parents' wedding to stroke the dogs.
But that's fine – that's where we're at at this moment in life
So I'm here to offer advice to both the lucky parents and offer support, but I'm also another resource for my niece. I can be a confidant for dodgy dalliances or stressful situations in which they don't want to talk to their parents, while still offering a form of wisdom. They may entirely ignore my advice, or think I'm silly or naff – and I very well may be – but that's my role. I'm the aunt. I'm somebody's aunt. How about that?!
Of course, with that comes a degree of greater responsibility than I have had before. This isn't just a long babysitting job, no sir. I have to be around. Present. On good terms with my sister, and respectful that she will parent her daughter exactly how she wishes and that it's nothing to do with me. In terms of my opinion, obviously, I will support her however she goes about it.
But I'll be there as a sounding board or a place for her to come crying to when the world is getting A Bit Much. You know, the times when it's been a stupidly long day and you just want a hug, a glass of wine, and – horrible though it sounds – to go back to the times when you didn't have the weight of the world on your shoulder just for one night.
You can offer that to her, to both of them
When they need it, you'll be there. Cue Friends theme tune.
To my niece: I promise I will always have great snacks and witty comebacks and embarrassing stories about your mother that will get you your way. I also promise to my sister to never get angry at her and say 'you're just like mum'. That's something that is sort of unforgivable – no matter how much you love your mum. You can't come back from it, I'm afraid.
Even and especially if it's true!
Now the final question: will I become the Wine Aunt or the Fun Aunt.