THE baby who made me an aunt for the first time has just turned 18.
I swear it was just weeks ago I was watching over him in his stroller at Darling Harbour and pleading with him not to cry during his mother’s very brief absence.
“You will make me look incredibly hopeless if you get upset now,” I reasoned with the 18-month-old, clearly miles out of my depth.
“You can cry later – just not right now on my very short shift.”
“WAAAAAAH!” he wailed. “WAAAAAAAAAH!”
“Seriously, though! I thought we had an agreement,” I whined.
A few steps away my husband rejoined the fold: “What did you say to him?’
“Nothing much, really,” I said. “I told him to act happy; maybe he’s not a very good actor!”
Much more adept with children, my husband pulled out a repertoire of funny faces that promptly put a smile on said child’s dial just in time for his mum to rejoin us.
When our nephew’s sister arrived three years later I was marginally more prepared to make funny faces.
Living apart as we do we rarely babysat our niece and nephew but we minded them once in Albury when their mum got a haircut.
We had been looking forward to it right until the moment their mum left our Olive Street townhouse with these parting words: “If she’s choking on lunch, just pick her up and tip her upside down. The food should just fall out!”
“Not even funny,” I said, “You’re just getting a trim, right, no colour?!”
“Hurry … have fun … hurry!”
We fed our niece, eventually. We only gave her minute pieces of food at a time; she must have wondered about the miserly rations on the border. It was the longest lunch but probably the smartest preparation for parenthood. I didn’t even bat an eyelid when our two started on solids.
Later when our eldest daughter was born her newly-adult cousin, eight at the time, and his sister oohed and aahed over her for the week we stayed together. It was the warmest of welcomes in windy Wellington. If cousins are your first true best friends, our two have been blessed with the very best of friends from the outset.
During this week-long love-in we went to the park when it was fine and played board games when it was wet. As it was New Zealand, we played our fair share of Monopoly.
Sitting around playing board games highlighted two things early on for me: 1) You should play as many games as humanly possible with your kids while they still want to play with you; and, 2) Do not try to break up a property group in Monopoly belonging to anyone on my husband’s side of the family. They like their collections intact and will guard them with their fake money life. My sister-in-law cleverly counselled her son – who had just lost highly valued Mayfair from his complete set – with good humour and skill. (I made mental notes, which have proved handy as we have at least one other serious collector living under our roof.)
Now her eight-year-old is a certified adult and my baby – as a nine-year-old – is already halfway there. Her splendid adult is a six-foot-six gentle giant with a heart of gold who towers over his four, petite girl cousins on my husband’s side. They, like me, will be looking up to him for years to come.
Congratulations on your milestone, Oliver, and thanks for helping make an aunt out of me. (I said aunt!)