At the school I went to for high school.
Needless to say, this makes me feel old.
I imagine that my poor brother feels even older... but we won't talk about that ;)
Our family is a leetle different in this regard... I became a completely clueless and oblivious aunt at the young age of 8. 12 years later, I still only have 2 siblings, but 12 nieces and nephews have been added to the family.
Fun fact: I'm closer in age to 9 of my nieces and nephews than I am to my brother.
Fun fact 2: I'm closer in age to 11 of my nieces and nephews than I am to my sister.
Story #1: My brother's kids were spending the weekend with us, and we brought them to Sunday Mass. Jacob was 2, maybe 3, and tired, so he spent Mass sleeping on my shoulder. When Mass was over, this elderly woman who we see at Church a lot came up to me and said, "I didn't know you were even expecting!" After reassuring her that this was actually my nephew, she made a comment about how we were extremely close in age (14 years), and walked away confused. Poor lady...
Yes, I have to have statements at-the-ready to give people when I'm with the kids. (Especially when I'm with my sister's kids and most especially the ones with red hair! Whewph!)
"Here, your daughter may want to try this..." "My niece is allergic to wheat, thanks."
"Your son's hair is the same color as yours!" "Oh, this is my nephew..." "What?!?!?!?" "You know, my sister's son. A nephew. Do you have any?"
"You have a son?! *judging eyes*" "Nope. This is my nephew. One of my 6 nephews. And 6 nieces. The others are over there. Have a nice day."
Being an aunt who babysits also means that occasionally, I have to discipline them. It's literally traumatizing for me (but I still do it, 'cause I love them, and we read in the readings yesterday that discipline is a good thing...). Since I'm not their parent, I actually really care about whether they like me or not, and when I have to discipline a rowdy nephew or sulking niece, ufda!
Story #2: A couple years ago, one nephew was being particularly difficult one day. My sister and brother-in-law left the house and told me to "feel free to take away reading-before-bed privileges" if need be. Well, the need was, and boy, did he dislike his aunt that night. I was only 16 or 17, and was convinced that he'd hold it against me for the rest of my life. Despite his screaming and crying that evening, he seems to have forgotten that I didn't let him read before bed.
The fact that I am an aunt and "only 20" hasn't been lost on the kids, either.
Story #3: Earlier this summer, I needed to pick Joseph up from baseball. Before I arrived at their house, he had a conversation with his mom in which he expressed his concern about my picking him up.
"What if the coach asks who she is?"
"Just tell him that she's your aunt!" my sister-in-law replied. "That's who she is!"
"But," he said. "She's so ... young!"
Ah, yes, youth and responsibility.
They also seem to be convinced that they have an input about the size of my future family...
Story #4: While I was over at their house last month, MaryGrace asked me if I would have 6 children some day, too (probably since that's how many kids both my brother and sister have now). I told her that I didn't know; it depended on what God thought was best. She then asked my sister if I was getting married soon. Christine told her she didn't know- that depended on God's plan too! I forget exactly what MaryGrace said, but I could tell that those answers didn't satisfy her- she needed details!
Being an 20-year-old aunt to so many children is quite the experience. I love each and every one of them with all my heart, and it's a joy to see them grow up. Yes, being an aunt 12 times over can be strange at times, but those times are far outnumbered by the crazy-amazing blessings that come with lots of nieces and nephews.
I hope I can be the kind of aunt whose nieces and nephews feel comfortable with. I want them to tell me about their books and legos and football and dolls and knitting projects. I hope I can give them advice that builds them up and lets them know how much they mean to everyone. I hope I can be an awesome aunt who they'll call when they're in college, just because. I hope some day, when they're all grown up, they'll know how much they really mean to me.