Why being an uncle is enough
Before yesterday, I’ve changed one diaper in my life. It was circa ‘06/’07. My brother’s devil bitch ex-fiancée jumped shipped a few months after Jayden, my first nephew, was born. I moved in with Justin shortly thereafter to help support my brother who was left stranded being the only responsible parent.
The first (and only) time I changed Jayden’s diaper was during a short one or two-hour babysitting session. And, yes, I earned it - it was poopy. I would’ve happily changed more, but Justin went from completely inexperienced to Dad of the Year as soon as his son was born and somehow managed to do pretty damn well solo.
Jayden will be 10 in a couple weeks, and there’s not another person on this entire planet who I want to influence positively more than him. Being an uncle changed my life the moment I got the news my brother was going to have a child. Granted, I didn’t know to what degree. And, at that time, I didn’t know what it meant to be an uncle or what responsibility came with it, but I truly felt my psyche mature and my heart grow to make room for all the new love I was about to give.
On August 13, 2011, I had the privilege of inheriting my second nephew when Justin married his wholly kindhearted wife, Becca. Her son, Ashton, who’s two years older than Jayden, is the big brother Jayden needs. Justin and Becca raise their boys with the bar set extremely high for being polite and respectful that is giving them the foundation on which to stand as they grow into young men. However, when Jayden returns from being pulled into whatever erratic weekend his absentminded mother half-asses and lies her way through, his behavior and attitude almost always temporarily regresses a notch. I quietly believe Ashton is the guardian angel Jayden needs to help guide him when his mother lazily allows him to stray.
Because I live two hours away from my two guys, when I do get the opportunity to see them that time is valued at the highest premium. When we get to hang out, I am present and engaged. I know how far back my memories go of the few times my two uncles weren’t entirely bothered by having to supervise Justin and me, so I’m aware that Jayden and Ashton will also remember these years, too. It’s so important to me that when they look back on their youth they will have fond memories of me - not just because I’m the fun uncle, but because I shared my love and attention for them at every chance while reinforcing that I expect them to be good boys.
When we’re together, I rarely show up with material gifts. Instead, I try to share experiences with them. Thankfully, Becca does an amazing job of reminding them that the most important things in life aren’t things. To her credit, the boys have never, not even once, held out their hands expecting something. No presents. Memories.
Katherine has been a vital influence in my relationship with the boys. For almost the last eight years, she has been an aunt to them with a true heart. She encourages them, talks to them with warm care and understanding and scratches their backs when they fall asleep lying next to her on the couch when she and I are home for the holidays. I am so thankful for the way she cares for them and do my best tell her often of my appreciation. I notice that having the two of us has a positive effect on the boys. They know they can be themselves around us. They know we’re safe. They know that the husband and wife love we have for each other translates into authentic, meaningful aunt and uncle love toward them. They love her like blood.
I’ve watched Katherine be conscious and intentional about being an aunt, but I’ve been anxious for her to experience the natural bond I’ve been so fortunate to have with Jayden. On July 31, she was finally blessed with that opportunity. After nine months warming up in her sister’s tummy, Katherine got to be an aunt of her own. My calm, patient and fun-loving sister-in-law and her husband gave birth to the healthy and adorable Finn Michael, their first child and the first grandbaby to my in-laws.
I’m about as lucky as they come with Katherine’s family. They’ve made me feel the same way Katherine loves Jayden and Ashton. When I got to be one of the few to hold Finn the day he was born all the automatic uncle settings that showed themselves the day I held Jayden for the first time, the day he was born, came overwhelmingly rushing back. I was a brand new uncle all over again. Katherine laid Finn in my nervous arms and my heart thudded with the strength of miced bass drum. Not that I ever doubted her acceptance of Jayden and Ashton, I knew at that moment I held Finn she never phoned it in as an aunt. Because of the love I’ve shared with the Makowski family and Finn Sullivan’s parents, that little guy was absolutely my nephew. I was so happy that Katherine got to be an aunt, and so honored that I got to be his uncle.
Steph and Ryan asked Katherine and me to babysit Finn yesterday. They had a late afternoon date day for Ryan’s company’s Christmas party, and just needed Finn covered for four to five hours. Easy gig, bring it on. This was our first private opportunity to impart our aunt and uncle magic on our little guy, and we happily accepted with honor.
He was a perfect baby. In almost four even cycles, he played, ate, peed and napped. I don’t expect a medal, but I changed three of four diapers. It only took me ten years to change one since Jayden. I learned he’s already good at playing peek-a-boo with his spit-up towel and is at the stage of trying to grab everything - including my beard. And that’s hilarious to him.
I love that I can make him smile. Nothing warms my heart the same. I also realized that I sing every sentence to him. Not song lyrics, just normal words become a song in no particular rhyme or reason. I’m a terrible singer, but he seems to listen, so I’ll keep singing.
I feel like I’ve got this uncle thing down. And, while Katherine and I still try to figure out whether we’re going to have kids of our own, I’m just fine with this gig. For right now, being an uncle is enough. It's perfect. The love I have for Jayden, Ashton and Finn may not be the same that every parent tries to sell me on that they have for their child, but no one can challenge me on whether my love for my nephews is fulfilling enough for my heart and what’s going to make me happy for the rest of my life with my wife. When I look at my nephews, I’m proud. I see an opportunity to help influence kind human beings and feel a bond that will hold us together unlike one between anyone else.