The Best Part About Being an Aunt

This is what I love about being an aunt.

On a frigid Thursday evening in late March a year ago, I drove from my home in St. Louis to Chicago. I’m a big, big fan of routine, but I’d made the rare, split-second decision that morning to put off the obligations of my thesis and courses and leave as soon as I could. What was waiting for me was more important than the deadlines I’d formed for myself.

What was waiting for me was Bug.

Bug was the nickname for my new nephew, six pounds of pure gift — the tiny creature who had made me an aunt. And I wasn’t going to wait another second to meet him.

I might be biased. In fact, I’m certain I am. But I stand by the assertion that my nephew is the most beautiful, perfect child on the face of the earth. And while that might be debated by similarly doting aunts, what’s indisputable is that he has changed my life — and my family — for the better.

From the beginning of his existence, Bug has had a way of brightening our lives and introducing us to the power of surprise, joy, and love. Throughout his days he’s provided us the space for wonder and excitement — the kind that only comes with the arrival of a new child.

It began when my sister texted me the summer before, asking if I could keep a secret. I assured her I could, hoping she’d say what she did: that I was to have a niece or nephew present at my wedding the following spring.

I was thrilled. After watching my sister care for others for my entire life — whether it was me, her baby sister, or children we were babysitting for — I couldn’t wait to see her as a mother. And this child would be special — because he would be the first of a new generation. The first grandchild in my immediate family. The start of a new promise. The hopes and expectations of our family passed on through time. And he’d get to be part of the memories of my wedding — he might not remember dressing up in the sweetest 3-month-old bow tie I’ve ever seen, but I’d know he was with us on the day he gained an uncle.

Before he was born, we spent hours as an extended family in wonder — what would he be like? Would he have my dad’s nose? His parents’ sense of humor? Every new facet we learned about him only sparked our curiosity — from when we found out that he was a boy to when we saw him rubbing his eye on an ultrasound.

When we learned that we’d be his godparents, my husband and I spent time wondering about his Catholic existence. How would he grow in his faith? What could we provide, as his godparents, to help him grow in his faith and see the world through the love of God?

And that wonder turned to a new kind of joy — one that felt complete and also full of waiting and expectation when he was born. Bug revealed to me what it is to fully trust another with your life. The first night I met him, I watched as he gazed up at my sister, not 24 hours after his birth, with the widest eyes and the clearest sense of recognition. It was as if he was silently saying, “Yes, I know you.”

This small being, so fragile and yet so strong — his whole life had been placed in the hands of his mother. The two gazed upon each other, recognizing what they had known but seeing it anew, and between them passed the strongest, most pure and raw love. In that moment, Bug and my sister both showed me what it means to love another being unconditionally.

And he’s continued to reveal new things to me as he grows. Bug is almost 1 year old now, and everything — and every day — is an adventure. He reminds me of the joy of life, the excitement in the ordinary and the everyday. Watching him learn a new skill, a new trick — whether it’s figuring out how to crawl or learning that he can pull glasses off our faces — is a testament to the happiness that surrounds us all.

He’s also made me particularly aware of the passage of time. Living in St. Louis, I’m not able to visit Bug as often as I’d like. (Of course, if I had it my way, I’d be there every weekend). And I’m seeing his infancy slip away as he begins to speak, play with trucks, grow and thrive and laugh.

There’s nothing better than watching my nephew learn — and yet I’m struck by the nostalgia of already missing his smallness, missing when he’d lay snuggled in my lap for an hour. He’s reminding me of the importance of focus, of presence, of being grateful for the moments we have and experiencing them as intentionally as I can — because the next time I see Bug, I don’t know whether he’ll be too busy playing to snuggle his Aunt Molly.

Some (well, all) around me note that I may be mildly obsessed with my nephew. And they’re not wrong. But more than being an adorable child, Bug will always hold a special place in my heart. Because he’s opened my life to a new way of seeing, and he’s allowed me — without him even knowing — to see the world through his eyes.

And that world is one of trust, love, and deep joy — each of which I’ll never forget.

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