I love being an aunt. It’s one of the best things in the world, maybe even better than being a grandparent. I live a few hours away from my sisters and their kids, but being an aunt who lives a few hours away has its own charm, too. From special sleepovers to noisy birthday gifts (won’t. stop. beeping.), I relished the opportunity to snuggle them as babies, play with them as toddlers, and spoil them as elementary aged kids.
I enjoyed my sisters’ kids, but also enjoyed giving them back at the end of the weekend or family event. I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong urge to have a baby. There was a time in my life when I thought I would do it someday, but that was more because of my understanding of what one does when one grows up. In my mid-twenties, God started to give me a heart for being a stepmom. I slowly warmed to the idea and unlike several of my single friends, I never minded dating someone who already had kids.
I’m not sure why I thought I would ever be qualified to be someone’s stepmom. I had a very nuclear, Leave it to Beaver family. Though some aunts, uncles and cousins were divorced and remarried, no one in my immediate family was. I had no firsthand experience with a stepparent or stepkids, but always felt it was in my future if I married.
When Tim and I got to the “serious” stage of dating, my friends would ask how old his kids were. Upon hearing they were nearly 5 and 7, they would exclaim, “Perfect!” “They would adjust so well if you get married.” “No dirty diapers!” “At least they’re not teenagers yet!”
Turns out they were right. And as my love for the kids has grown, I do reflect with gratitude that I dodged dirty diapers, toilet training, and highchairs. But I also missed the excitement of gummy smiles of recognition, first words, and first steps. Parents talk about how fast the time goes, and I am learning that myself. I’m also realizing how you can’t make up for lost time–or even passed time.
Last Sunday in church, we kept the kids in the big service with us. Yoseph climbed up into my lap and then wanted me to hold him as we stood and sang. He is six years old and long and gangly. He is physically almost too big to hold like that. But he is a snuggler and his love language is so clearly physical touch (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/) that I couldn’t resist just a minute with him like that. Tim motioned that he should sit in his own seat, but I couldn’t resist. “Just a minute more,” I whispered.
As we drove home, I quietly and somewhat tearfully reminded Tim that I didn’t get to snuggle him as the cute baby from Ethiopia when he came to the US so many years ago. There are only so many more times when he will want to sit in my lap, I explained. Even though I should teach him more independence and how to sit in church by himself, I want to hold him as long as he’ll let me. He nodded with tears in his own eyes and clasped my hand.
He’ll be grown so soon, I know. But I’ll grab on to these minutes, these moments, as long as I can.