Personal: An apology to my nieces and nephew

June 1, 2017

Dear Savahnna, Brianne, Heather, JD, and Ruby,

I was thinking of you all this morning and realized that I owe you an apology (well, for Miss Ruby I’m apologizing ahead of time). Why am I apologizing, you ask? What could your most favorite auntie have to apologize for, other than ruining your hearing on your birthday each year with my offkey (massively, painfully offkey) renditions of the Happy Birthday song? So here’s the thing: I want to apologize for myself, and anyone else in the family who is guilty of treating you guys like a kid long after your “kid” stage.

It’s not that I think you’re immature, and I’m not being condescending whenever I call you “kiddo.” I’m also not trying to stuff you into a personality category that you might have fit into when you were six.

The truth is, every time I look at your shining, beautiful faces, I see the you that’s you now, but I also see superimposed over that the you that was you when you were a wee little one. I adore you both, please know that. I’m pretty sure that as your auntie and close relative, I’m hardwired to see you that way. Your parents are, too. That’s how you survived all those times when you were so naughty, you could tell your mom or dad (or mom AND dad) wanted to kill you. They looked at you, doing whatever you were doing that you weren’t supposed to be doing, and over your naughty face was superimposed your cute little toofless, slobbery, giggling face from when you were a baby. And then their blood pressure magically eased up, and they decided they weren’t going to kill you. Yet.

In addition to my instinctual habit of seeing two faces of yours at the same time, I’ve also developed a way to differentiate you over the years. I think I speak for all of us in this: When we call one of you the “smart one” and another of you the “dramatic one,” we’re not trying to stuff you into a single personality box. Instead, what we’re doing is finding a key to differentiate you. You are all so much more than your single key, we know that. But we need one thing about you to hold on to so we can tell ourselves that we love you all equally. Because we do love you all equally.

Equally but separately. I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well; probably because I don’t understand it all that well. All I know is that it totally annoyed me as a kid (also as a teenager and adult) when my relatives would call me by my personality key. But now I find myself doing it, and realizing that it’s in a loving way. It’s like when Brianne and Savahnna were kids — Savahnna liked purple and Brianne liked pink. So now, in my mind’s eye, I still see them in their signature colors, and I love them for that difference. I dunno, it’s just a way to help you stand out from the crowd in my loving mind. Which is also probably instinctual, like a mama duck loving each one of her babies no matter how many there are, and knowing at least one separate characteristic for each so she knows instantly when one is missing without even counting them. Since it’s possible that ducks can’t count. Not that I’m judging.

So I deeply apologize for both of those things: treating you like a kid even after you’ve grown up, and assigning a personality key to each of you so I can keep track of you in my mind (and at the grocery store, or the zoo) . If it’s any consolation, once you reach about your 36th birthday, you’ll actually start liking to be called “kiddo” again.

And now that you all are either aunties, uncles, or mommies, you’ll realize with Miss Ruby that you’re doing the same thing that we did to you. And so the cycle continues.

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