To file under “cutest question ever asked,” my friend Ziva texted me yesterday…
“Will you have sushi one night with Sunny?” she asked, talking about her daughter. “It’ll be one of her Hanukkah presents.” How adorable is that?!
Sunny is seven years old and my pint-sized bestie. Is there anything more heart-warming than being friends with your friends’ kids? You get to be the fun aunt — you don’t need to discipline them or struggle with bedtime, you can just enjoy them. We’ve played Guess Who, she’s shown us gymnastics moves, we’ve gotten chocolate milkshakes with the boys.
Another pal is Linus, my friend Alison’s five-year-old. When his parents are in a pinch, he’ll come by for snacks and cartoons; and we’ll play a game where we’ll silently move our mouths and try to guess what the other person is saying.
Then his sister Georgie blew onto the scene…
…and stole all our hearts! I mean!!
Over the past couple years, I’ve cherished these new relationships, and they come with perks. Of course, it’s fun to have wacky little friends around the neighborhood; and also I love that my boys get to hang out with kids of all ages, like a puddle of cousins. They learn to be patient(-ish) with the younger ones and download slang from the older ones.
And it’s nice to have a clear way to help parent friends. Those early years are no joke! Now that the boys are slightly older, at 9 and 12, I thankfully have more headspace to add another person to the dinner table or movie night. As Anne Helen Peterson wrote, “People need and want help, and people need and want to provide help.” Many of us find it hard to ask for help or accept it when it’s offered. But aunting is a specific, convincing, free way to pitch in — “Does Anjali want to come with us to the park today?” or “Can I come put Leo to bed tonight while you guys stare at the wall?”
And honestly, selfishly, hanging out with toddlers eases “The Ache” of being done having babies. When I look with starry eyes at my own beloved kids and get a broody pang for just one more, having younger friends underfoot remind me that there are so many little ones out there who are happy for “bonus” adults who will listen to them, take their joys and worries seriously, and let them have a little more ice cream than their parents would. Your friends get a nap; you get a sweaty hand in yours; and everybody wins.
Are you an auntie, real or chosen? Would you like to be? Do you need more aunts in your life?