I will never forget the day I became an aunt 22 years ago; my 19-year-old self was rabidly excited. I was in a college class (Western Classics, as I recall) when my roommate busted in, completely interrupting the entire class to announce that I had gotten a phone call in our dorm room to tell me that my nephew Charles had arrived.

It’s still one of the best days of my life.

Nephew #1. The 90s were amazing!

My two brothers soon began providing me with a niece or nephew to love every 18 months to two years for quite awhile, until I’d amassed a trove of six little ones to love before I became a parent myself at age 26. (This is only on my side of the family, my husband’s siblings were even more prolific!)

Being an aunt has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I loved babysitting them before I had kids, having sleepovers or taking them for special outings. I loved being with them and I loved caring for them.

I learned this epic aunting from my own great aunt, Polly. She was my grandfather’s sister. My grandfather died before I was born, but that didn’t stop Aunt Polly from being very involved in her great-nieces and great-nephews’ lives. She had grandkids of her own, but she loved us just as well, showing us with constant invitations to her home and delicious meals, playing games with us and attending our special events.

She had a family of “her own.” But she loved us like she loved them, not because she had to, but because she wanted to. She loved us because we were her brother’s family.

Even though I’ve been a mom myself for 15 years, I thank God that I am an aunt. For all of their young lives, I still have loved going to my nieces and nephews’ basketball, baseball, and soccer games. To their plays and musicals, to their concerts and recitals {and in one case, his Rubik’s Cube competitions}. I would not miss a graduation or a birthday party to save my life. It has been such a privilege to be there for all these things, and I am so thankful I live close enough to be in their lives.

If you’ve never had your nephew’s photo head on a stick, are you even an aunt?

My Aunt Polly taught me about loving for loving’s sake, and I’ve tried to pass that along. My niece and nephews don’t owe me anything, and since I didn’t bring them into this world, I don’t bear any responsibility for them. Yet, they have brought me such joy. I don’t love them because they give me anything. I love them because they are my brothers’ children.

Being their cheerleader, their admirer, their encourager, and their #fanaunt (check the hashtag on Insta – it’s almost all me. HA HA HA!) is a huge privilege and a huge part of my identity. One I’ve been blessed abundantly with. As I’ve watched them grow (they are now, aged 22 to just 3!),they’ve all taught ME so much: about perseverance, about serving others, about hard work, and of course, about joy.

If your kids have an amazing aunt (praise the Lord, mine do!!), count them and yourself blessed. Aunts are the ones who teach our kids how wonderful and valuable they are to spend time with — just because. Aunts choose to love and invest in our kids without obligation. And many times, that kind of love is exactly what our kids of all ages need. 

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Jenny Rapson

Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.