As a childless not by choice woman, my nieces and nephews have a special place in my heart. They are my kids, so I worry about them, pray for them, and love them fiercely. I want only good things for them and talk with them about important issues like their hopes and dreams for the future.
I say, “If, not when…”
Because I know that plans do not always turn out as you desire, I have changed my dialogue with my nieces and nephews. I no longer say, “When you get married” or “When you have kids.” Instead, I have started commenting, “If you get married” and “If you have kids.”
Honestly, I began doing this for two reasons. One, I want my nieces and nephews to know that they do not have to get married or have kids. Two, they know that their uncle and I wanted littles, but could not have them. So, I want them to also remember that just because you want kids, does not automatically mean that God will bless you with them.
She says, “I’ll just adopt…”
So, over Christmas, while talking with our nieces, I said, “If you have kids…” To this, our middle niece responded, “Well, if I can’t have kids, then I’ll just adopt.”
Oh, those dreaded words—just adopt. Mind you, she is just shy of 13-years-old and has no concept of what “just adopt” means. Trying to give her a bit of insight without going into too many details, I told her that when I was her age, I used to say the exact same thing. Going on, I explained that adoption is quite expensive and can cost upwards of $50,000, stating that was one of the reasons Uncle Dane and I didn’t adopt. To this, she quipped, “Well, maybe I’ll be rich” and shrugged her shoulders.
Knowing this conversation wasn’t really going anywhere and understanding that it was very close to upsetting me, my sweet hubby stepped in and said, “We hope so. Since you want to be a vet, maybe you will be rich!” We all smiled and moved on to a lighter topic of conversation.
The Problem with Being a Childless Aunt
But obviously, I haven’t forgotten about this exchange with my niece. And honestly, it did upset me a little. Like I said, my nieces and nephews are so important to me. As a childless aunt, one off my biggest fears is that we will grow apart, that I won’t always be such an important person in their lives…
From Special Days…
Before we moved to South Carolina, we used to have “special days” with our nieces. We would take each of them for three to four days during the summer and do special things just for them. We’d go to the zoo, go out to eat, have ice-cream, visit an animal sanctuary, attend a children’s play, watch a movie… These days were incredible and created memories that I cherish to this day. And during one of these special days, my middle niece said, “Tia, I love you as much as my mom.” When I think about this moment, it still brings tears to my eyes. What an absolutely incredible compliment.
To growing up…
But four years later and growing up, this same niece now tells me, “I’ll just adopt if I can’t have kids.” And when I say something about her being my responsibility (because we watched them for several days over Christmas), she retorts, “I’m my mom’s responsibility.” Or when I say, “That’s what moms do,” she exclaims, “You’re not our mom.” (For clarification, I was not implying that I was their mom. My sister-in-law is an amazing mom to her girls. I was actually talking about their mom… Well, and me, hoping they’d realize I love them like a mom.)
Are we growing apart?
Anyway, I digress a bit. As a childless aunt, I’m just worried. I’m worried that they are becoming teenagers and that they are starting to do the sideways, lean in, and barely put one arm around you hugs, and that we are growing apart…
My husband says I don’t need to worry. He promises me that we developed a strong relationship with the kids when they were younger and that it will last a lifetime. He assures me that their love will never fade.
But like my middle niece stated, I’m not their mom. I’m just their aunt. And their aunt who lives states away, at that. So, I worry. Because I already lost the biological child that I dreamed of. I can’t lose my nieces and nephews, too.
So, I’ll just keep loving them…
So, I text them and I send them cards and I like their photos on Instagram. I remind myself that the world was black-and-white when I was a teenager and someday, they’ll understand what it means that I love them with a mom heart and that I feel a responsibility for them even though I’m not their parent. Someday, they’ll get that the world has a lot of grey…
I hope they never have to understand this infertility or childless journey. If they want kids, I hope they can have them. But I’ll be there for them, no matter what.
And despite the fact that they don’t always fully understand what I’m trying to tell them, I’ll keep talking to them about the future. I’ll keep saying “If you get married” and “If you have kids…”
But as for college, now that’s a when you go! 😉