This may feel like it's coming from somewhere out of the left field to those of you who know me. Let's just say I'm slightly prone to the bouts of 'men are trash,' 'smash the patriarchy,' 'the world is already overpopulated, stop propagating' moments after a glass of wine. Or three.
That said, it doesn't mean I can't appreciate the finer things in life in terms of selective childcare. I don't mean particular in terms of emotional negligence and only having custody on the weekends. I just mean that I get them when they're cute and cuddly during the day in daycare and then stopper them off to their parents upon their return for the inevitably stressful evenings of putting them down for the evening and tactical naps. The parenting bureaucracy I can admire and critique from a distance. But make no mistake, I'm a narcissistic millennial so-and-so, but the parenting culture would eat me alive, full time.
I don't know how you guys do it.
For me it's a holiday of wholesome nurturing performance – for you guys, it's your life.
Operating a day-care centre is great because, on the one hand, we provide a super necessary and important social and public service for parents everywhere. On the other hand, we also get our time of gentle self-care by virtue of looking after another person. The responsibility, however short-lived, of a life in your own hands. Entirely reliant on your ability to remember to feed it. That's something else. If I may be so bold, it's comparable to becoming an aunt for the first time.
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 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 with an open mouth wonder at the words 'It's a girlb.'
Obviously, as I smiled to myself in realization, '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.
This was a very bold first step into my future. One branch of my life has begun growing. In 20 years, 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?!
It's also really nostalgic and makes me miss my childhood. In a good way, though. We've all grown up so much since then. But that doesn't mean that I don't feel bad for falling out of touch with my old best friend. Cue emotional deep dive!
How has it been so long? We used to talk every day and see each other every day in school, after school, walking to school… you get the picture. We were something of a pair. Maybe it was football's common interests when it wasn't cool to be a soccer nerd in year 7 when everyone else liked Rugby. Maybe it was the collective obsession with One Direction – we were slightly more mainstream with that connection, lol.
That's what all these kids have in front of them.
Their whole lives. That's a whole lot of life to live. It's a reminder of both how old we are and how young we are at the same time. We have so much still to learn, but also we've got a little bit of wisdom between us to pass on to the next generation… when we're unleashed on them.
Let's not pretend that they don't teach us loads in return.
Something about reminding us who we are.
And who we might still be.