I'm a better aunt than I am a mother

Ever since my nephews were old enough to fly without a parent, we’ve been having them out for part of the summer.  I think the first time they came out they were 4 and 7.  Now they are 14 and 17.  It used to be that we had to pay extra money for them to be escorted to and from their seat by a flight attendant, wearing an Unaccompanied Minor sticker.  Now they are old enough to check in themselves, and one of them can drive.  (gulp).


For many years we hosted them before we had kids of our own, so it was a kind of parenting “trial run”.  Man, I was a good mom back then, before I had kids.  We poured ourselves into the boys for the days they were with us.  We were so intentional . . . we packed our time full of fun things, and in the evenings we took time to sit down with them and really listen.  I remember doing affirmations with them, talking about their hopes and dreams, and giving them encouragement and advice in the areas where they were struggling.  We always spent a night or two doing a “slumber party” where we stayed up talking late into the evening.

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(on a trip to Mexico with Austin and Derek, 2001)


On the first night the boys were here, we fell back into that pattern.  I was sitting on the floor with them and an easy familiarity took over, as they talked about their current life, their joys and frustrations, all of it laden with heavy sarcasm and smack-talk, of course.   I felt a great connection to them, as I have in so many summers past.

We also had a ton of intentional time with my nephews these past weeks.  I pretty much blew off most of my responsibilities in favor of seeking out fun things for them to do.  I let the house fall apart, I didn’t get enough sleep, but man, we had fun.

But I did have this nagging feeeling this whole week . . . I think it was a mixture of guilt, nostalgia, and sadness.  Because I know that I am not this cool with my own kids.

My time with my nephews has always had two goals: build on intimacy and build on fun.  This is the kind of mom I always thought I would be: a mom who seeks out fun experiences for her kids, and a mom who is present and listening and available.

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Much to my surprise, though, I have become a very different mother.  A mother who is tired and cranky and often on auto-pilot.  A mother whose M.O. is less about intimacy and fun and more about getting through the day.  A mom whose goal most days is to just get the kids to sleep and keep the house from falling apart. 

A mom who sometimes (often) does the bare minimum to keep the boat floating.

And that just made me feel a little sad this week. . . . that I’m not the mom I hoped I would be.  That my mom skills don’t stand up to my aunt skills.  I’m sure that this is a combination of many things.  My time with my nephews is usually a concentrated and finite amount of time. We’re usually in vacation mode. I’m not doing the dirty-work of discipline and day-to-day.  And obviously, they are two less children and even at their first visit they were a bit older than my kids.  Of course, I have the benefit of being the cool aunt and not the every-day mom.

But still, there is a little pang that my role as a mom feels so different from my role as an aunt.  I think there might be some middle-ground here that I’m missing.  I’m pondering this today.



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