I can’t compete with my nephew’s grandma, who was pretty much born to be around little kids, or his other aunt, who can, at a moment’s notice, make her voice sound so cheerful and exuberant you’d think she grew up in a Disney movie ending. Most of the time, I’m just happy when my nephew wants to lift up my shirt to examine my back (he’s into backs; don’t judge). I’m content being the aunt who can be affectionate when required but is also capable of telling him no when necessary (which Grandma has some trouble with if it means tears).
But when we’re alone, it’s a different dynamic. He only has me, so not only do I need to make sure he’s safe but I also need to provide all of the entertainment and all of the smiles. And all of the growls, as the case may be (we like to growl sometimes; don’t judge). And I get to form a special bond with him that isn’t possible when the distractions of the rest of the people who love this kid are around.
I also get to:
- imagine that when I tell a 2 year old to “be careful” as he’s running around in circles, he actually does slow down just a bit
- peel the wrappers off of crayons because that’s the only way he’ll color with broken pieces
- name every single picture in the ABC book
- not cringe at the mess when he dumps 2 bins full of every piece of toy food ever invented onto the floor
- do the falling sound effect when he repeatedly pushes a giraffe off a building (just one of the countless games I accidentally invented)
- watch him eat goldfish crackers off the floor and be glad he’s not trying to feed me any
- feel like an athletic star when I sometimes get the inflatable soccer ball to roll right to him
Maybe mundane things, all of them. But things that deepen our relationship and experiences that are special just because of the people involved. Ours is a relationship that lets both parties be free to be as boring or as crazy as they want and still maintain the love, and that makes it a pretty great one. It also makes licking fake ice cream with him the most important thing to me right now (I like pretending to eat plastic food; don’t judge).