Flickr photo by geishaboy500Before I was a mom, I loved taking my niece for a few hours, the day, or even a weekend. We had all kinds of adventures together -- picnics on the floor, horse and buggy carriage rides, camping trips, the zoo, museums.
I remember once, when I brought her home to my sister, she burst into tears, screaming, hysterical. She reached her little arms out for me, trying to get out of her mother's grasp. She wanted to stay with me. And why wouldn't she? I was so much fun. I was the cool aunt.
Even when my nieces were teenagers, they'd say, "You're so cool, why can't mom be more like you?" I thought I had some special connection with kids ... until I became a mom.
Now, I realize being cool has less to do with actually being cool, and more to do with just not being "mom." No matter how "cool" anyone else thinks I am, my daughter will always just think of me as her boring (and, of course, totally embarrassing) mom.
She's only 2 and it's already started.
When my daughter is with her aunts or her older cousins, she wants absolutely nothing to do with me. "No, mama, no!" she cries if I'm so bold as to even glance into the room they're playing in. She's afraid I'm going to take her away from all the fun and bring her back to Boringville.
I watch as she plays with my sister -- cozy, giggling. Her every wish is her aunt's command. Her cool aunt gets on the floor and plays "birthday party" with her, reads the same book over and over, gives her ice cream for breakfast, takes her to the park when it's raining, skips her nap, and lets her play with her cell phone and on the computer (which is so against the rules at home). All in one day. If were two or three or fifteen, I wouldn't want to come home to boring old me after all that either.
Sure, I play my fair share of "birthday party" and take my daughter to the park and read the same book over and over (when I can stand it), but what my sister gives her that I don't is her undivided attention. I'm constantly interrupting games to check on dinner or put the laundry in the dryer or make an important phone call. I have to do "not fun" things like brush my daughter's hair, give her yucky-tasting medicine, and tell her "no."
And it's not just that I don't have the time to be "fun mom," it's also that I don't have the energy or, sadly, the patience. It's easy to read the same book 100 times in one day, but when you're asked to read that same book 100 times day after day (after day) ... shoot me now.
When you're the mom, you know that if she has ice cream for breakfast, she won't poop for days; and if she misses her nap, she'll be cranky and fall asleep too early and throw her schedule off for the week (mom needs that schedule!); and if you go to the park in the rain, it's really hard to slide down the slide, and the sandbox is not fun at all.
I see now why my niece wanted to stay with me (or thought she did), and I also see how easy it was for me to be so entertaining the whole time. After all, I just had her for a day or a weekend. My sister had her every day, all day, and until I had my own daughter, I couldn't appreciate how very hard that was.
I'm glad my daughter has my sisters and her cousins to make her feel special and fill the days they spend together with laughter, and hugs, and fun. I'm happy that my daughter loves them so much that she cries when she comes home with me.
I also love that I still get to be the cool aunt. Now that my nieces are older, I'm cool not because we do fun things together (I'd probably be very uncool if I took them to a carousal these days), but because we can talk about all kinds of things that they might feel uncomfortable telling their mom (my lips are sealed).
At night, when I put my daughter to bed, we chat about the day's activities. She tells me all the fun things she did and says she wants to go to her auntie's house again. Next time, she says she wants mama to come too. (We'll see about that.)
Then, she says, "Mama?"
"I love you."
I'll take being the boring mom over the cool aunt any day.