I know I frequently mention my little nieces and nephews. They are a big part of my life, and part of the glue that helps solidify our family unit. They have served to bring us together in a way we never could bring ourselves together before.
See, I grew up in two step-families. Every week at one house, every other week at the other. Two ‘siblings’ lived at each house, so I grew up with 4 other children but not simultaneously. These families have obviously grown and evolved into many forms through the years and our family dynamics are always changing because I guess all the players in the game are humans who change and evolve themselves.
In a way, I am experiencing with one family the same thing I experienced many years ago with the other. Fourteen years ago, when I was fourteen, my oldest niece S was born. She was a surprise, to put it mildly. My stepsister (the oldest one of the bunch and someone I looked up to a lot at the time) had her when she was 18, she married S’s father soon after the pregnancy and the whole crew moved in with us. For reasons I still don’t understand, the crib was put in my room after about 6 months. She used to wake up at night and I would rock her back to sleep singing bouncy country songs. We had little dances and routines and those midnight hours spent with her as a teenager are some I’ll never forget.
I would stand over her crib and watch her breathe. I wasn’t a teenage parent…but sometimes, it sure felt like it.
S’s little sister and little brother were born in quick succession and while none of us were overly thrilled that these children were introduced into life so early into their parents’ tumultuous lives; we loved and adored them. We still do – that much is definitely true – but when children become teenagers, things change and they’re no longer walking around thinking I’m hot stuff anymore. I joked when S turned 13 that I should give her a card saying “Happy Birthday! I won’t like you again til you’re 20.” =)
Obviously, I love the heck out of that smart little girl. But, for now, and for many various reasons, none of them are anywhere near as prevalent in my life as they once were. I miss them all the time. Each one of them brought me to a new level of adoration with their births and I feel like I grew up along with them…I took my first steps toward adulthood as they took their first steps toward the coffee table and we all fell down and scraped our knees together.
My mother and stepfather had only been married about 9 months when S was born. I had grown up with him, and his children, but I was a teenager by the time they officially married and when S was born, she became like a child to all of us. We nurtured her and C and L, the next little ones to come, the way we were nurturing a young family and I felt like a vital cog in the wheel. Now, things are different. This can be a topic of a whole other post.
When I moved back to KY almost four years ago, I moved back far closer (emotionally) to my mother’s family than my dad’s. I loved my step-sisters, but my relationship with my stepmother has always been tenuous to say the least (another topic of another post.) Then, 3 years ago, my sister L had her first baby. Then my sister B had her baby. Then L had another baby.
And so, once again, I have three little objects of my affection, blonde-headed and adorable, just as I did all those years ago. And my dad’s family has never been the same…we are closer, we are more involved in each others lives, and we have a common objective – to love these 3 little people.
With each of the births of the first grandchild on either side of my family, I have seen a cohesive result - all of a sudden, there is this baby. This cute little person that’s neither “mine” nor “yours” and we all feel free to love this kid as much as we want. My dad and stepmother constantly compared us girls to one another growing up, and we felt like it was very clear that our own parent preferred us …which yes, is a little obvious and just a given, but it was divisive among us as little children, and served to breed resentment, etc…all those wonderful feelings that go along with it.
Instead, these babies belong to no one and they belong to everyone and we are all allowed to snatch them up and love them to pieces.
Around Christmas this year, my family was running around in chaos after the presents were opened and we were all our way to the cabin in the woods where my stepmothers family gathers every Christmas eve and we were in a rush trying to get food cooked, naps out, etc. My nephew was melting down and everyone was busy, so I grabbed him up, stuck Baby Einstein in the DVD player, a bottle of milk and laid down with him on the couch for some chill-out time.
It was very soothing and soon we were both almost asleep. As I was just about to drift off, he reached out and took my hand. At that moment, I had one of those feelings of overwhelming love for this little bitty person sprawled out on me, and it stunned me. As much as I love each child, I had never felt like that before. It is the way I imagine I will feel about my own child all the time. It was that moment the phrase "To beg, to steal and to borrow" popped into my mind.
And it is so true. I am borrowing this sweet boy and he is serving a stand-in for my own child—-just as I am borrowing those sweet moments of all of the little ones, just as I borrowed them from the older ones (and still do). In a way, I guess we all borrow sweet moments from children, no matter whose they are, as that sweet innocence is all too fleeting.
I feel like my whole life is in beg, steal and borrow mode right now. I am begging for answers, stealing every day as I pass through it with seemingly no real purpose and borrowing other people’s children and families as stand-ins and substitutes for my own.
I stand on the fringe of my friends ‘real’ lives and serve as that voice on the phone or the person they have drinks with sometimes, but I’m not in hardly anyone’s day-to-day life. They have their babies, they have their relationships – I have none of these things.
This is a hard thing for me to deal with, and its been bothering me for the last year or so. I never really cared before, but as I get older, I want more and more to be settled. To be needed, to be loved better than anyone else. I know its an only human thing to want and need, but it almost makes me feel weak. Like I really should be happy with what I have and stop whining or worrying about what I don’t.
I should be grateful for those who allow me to be a part of their lives, no matter to what degree. My friends are fantastic and I have so many of them scattered all across the country. I have been sooo very blessed with so many people who have come and stayed in my life. And I am grateful for my family, as they grow and form their own little family trees, that they still have room for me in their lives. That their children know and love me and wear ‘I Love My Aunt’ t-shirts. It will have to do for now.
It will have to do.