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August 20, 2011


I am a fellow loving aunt who has spent a lot of time with my niece and nephew, though not as much as this! I know you didn't really ask for advice, but I have some anyway. Before you do any follow-up with the parents on limiting future visits, let me recommend that you think about the following things for next time: 1) letting them have whatever kind of down time they're used to, even if you don't like it (tv, video games, etc.), and as much of it as they usually get 2) setting up play dates with friends' kids or taking them places where there are other kids, where kids run around a lot on their own - the pool, even a Chuck E. Cheese-type place. 3) going out to eat more than usual, at places you might not like, like McDonald's, or feeding them easy, not-so-healthy food, like PBJ and mac and cheese. You might think (as I did!) that all the time spent with you should be wholesome, artistic, educational, and/or physically active, but it just doesn't happen that way, and if you try to do it, you'll be totally exhausted. (I mean, you'll be totally exhausted anyway, but this might help.) You obviously have given them some great experiences, but remember you can't change them in a week.

Congratulations on surviving the week!

I'm an aunt, too, and love it. I have to say, it seems to get more fun and easier as the kids get a bit older. Now, at 13 and 15, I can take them to do stuff that I couldn't a few years ago, and that's way fun.

It's also true that some kids are just easier than others.

It is such a tremendous gift to your nieces to give them all this time with you and to care so much about their experience when they're there. (Thinking about my own summer visits with my aunt at 11 and 12, which I loved--and hoping I wasn't a huge drain on her energy.) Think of this as one of your and D's summer accomplishments!

Definitely don't spend a moment feeling inadequate. Taking care of other people's kids, no matter how closely related or how much you love them, is utterly exhausting. Even more so when you're away from their normal turf and routines, and even simple things aren't simple. And at 7 and 10, what you are seeing is a combination of their essential personalities and the way they've been raised; if your brother tries to make you feel inadequate, it's probably out of defensiveness because he knows EN is challenging and wonders if they could have made her different. He might wonder if you and D are judging him for raising a difficult kid. Of course, they raised the easy one too--I'm not saying this is entirely rational!

I've never been able to convince my sister to take even one of the girls for a visit so consider yourself a rare bird! (My sister loves her nieces, just on her own terms.)

Grade 5 is a really tough age with kids, I remember. Eldest, particularly, was almost always unhappy then. The social dynamics of her peer group was horrendous. She's rebounded beautifully in the years since but make sure to give EN some supportive outlets when you email or talk over the next year.

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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