Monday, July 31, 2006

The closeness of family

daisiesThere's a physicality to my developing relationship with the children that I have not experienced before.

I'm actually quite amazed at how quickly they have taken to me and accepted me into their lives, and this acceptance brings with it a level of closeness which I don't experience to anything like the same level with the children of my friends, although I have known them all for far longer than I have known my nieces and nephew.

My sister pointed out that, if I were simply a friend playing with her kids, she would feel guilty about them monopolising me (and potentially wearing me out) after 15 minutes or so, but as I'm family, she doesn't have the same worries, and just lets me get on with it. This is allowing us to develop our relationship at a much faster pace than if I were simply interacting with my friends' kids for a short while, but I think there's more to it than that.

Although the children are still very young, niece #1 and nephew #1 already understand the concept of "sister" - because they are either a sister themselves, or they have one. My sister has been talking about her sister (me) for quite a while now, preparing them for my visit. We don't like the word "aunt" very much, so we don't use it - I am simply "mummy's sister" - and it's a concept which the kids understand, and which has a number of connotations associated with it.

daisies"Sister" means "playmate" and "confidante" and, at this age, "best friend" - and it appears that even though I am the sister of their mummy, I have been awarded the same rights in relation to the children, as they have with each other as siblings. This means I get to be an instant playmate - and they feel entirely comfortable being in closer physical proximity with me than any of the other children I know.

I think it also works from my direction too. Whereas I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable spending long periods of time monopolising my friends' children when they come over for a visit (because I assume my friends will want them back!), it's different with my nieces and nephew. Here I suppose I have an unspoken expectation of closeness (both physical and emotional) - assuming that the kids choose to accept it - and I don't worry that my sister will feel I'm spending too much time with the kids, because we are family, and so it's allowed.

daisiesIt's a lovely feeling, actually, and one which (as this is only the second time I have spent time with them) is both unexpected and enormously precious to me. I'm not planning to have children of my own, and these three little people are going to be the closest thing I have to my own kids (apart from my cats! ha!).

I feel deeply grateful to my sister for inviting me over on what was really not much more than a whim when we first began discussing the possibility a few months ago - and for impressing on me that what she wanted - and all she wanted - was for me to focus entirely on her family for a few weeks, simply sharing their lives and doing ordinary everyday things with them. For me, these everyday things are anything but ordinary, and I'm savouring every second, every hug, and every smile.

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