Growing up, I loved my aunts. They were fun and never said no to anything my cousins and I wanted to do. Summers consisted of swimming, skating, countless trips to Six Flags, and bomb sleepovers that we never wanted to end, so my perspective made me look forward to the day I would become an aunt.
My aunts represented strong, educated, independent, and fun women and I wanted to be just like them! They weren’t disciplinarians (not that they had to be because I was an angel child, of course). So in my mind, they didn’t have as much responsibility as a parent. Boy, was I wrong.
I didn’t realize the tremendous importance of being the “cool aunt” until I became one.
How to Be a Cool Aunt
My tribe consists of 14- and 16-year-old teen girls,12-year-old twin boys, and an 11-month-old baby girl who probably gives me—in her own way—more information than all of the rest combined. These kids are my entire heart, and I love them as if they were my very own.
I recently turned 30, so while I’m an adult figure in the lives of the kids I know, there are times when I feel like I’m still figuring out my place in the world.
But I’m the one my nieces and nephews call when they want a trip to the mall, an evening at the movies, or dinner at a new restaurant.
I’m also the first person they call to talk about the latest school drama. When I get those emergency calls, my cool aunt persona vanishes while I panic—but only on the inside. As the adult, I have to quickly pull it together and keep calm so that they don’t freak out with me.
Being the cool aunt can be stressful at times. I must walk a tightrope between being fun and cool and wise and responsible. Sure, I want them to be able to come to me, but I also want to give them the best advice. The kind of good advice my aunties gave to me.
Secrets are especially hard to keep when they’re piping hot like tea.
I have learned that most parents have no idea how much their kids notice. They watch everything which is something I’ve come to be mindful of. Over the years, I’ve heard countless stories about their parents, teachers, friends, and even the grandparents. The funny thing is, I never even have to ask; they just tell me what’s on their mind. And I am grateful for that because it means they trust me and are comfortable opening up to me.
My main role as the cool aunt is to listen and sometimes mediate between parents and kids.
Parents don’t always understand their teenagers and teenagers forget their parents were once teenagers themselves. They think their parents have no clue or are just plain “aggy” (which means aggravating in teen-speak).
That’s where I come in. I bridge the gap between parents and teens because I am in between both of their ages and I can empathize with both sides. And what I’ve experienced, most of the time, is that all it takes is one example to change the perspective of both sides. Sometimes I think I should have majored in psychology in college!
Being the cool auntie is essentially like being a part-time parent—only you can give the kids back when you get tired of parenting. I like to think that it’s practice for being a future parent myself. I have been around them since they were born, and it’s sometimes hard for me (like it’s hard for their parents) to see them as tweens and teens now. But I love being their go-to person, regardless of the circumstance, and I love that their parents trust me to guide them in the right direction.
I have grasped as an aunt that it really does take a village to raise children, and I’m happy to contribute.
Everyone plays an integral part. And the kids in my life need me for different reasons than they need their parents. Growing up, I never considered what a significant role my aunts played in my life. But now that I’m on the other side, I’m grateful they were there to show me how it’s done. I won’t ever take it for granted.