Welcome to Mommy Mondays, the one day of the week when I preach from the parenting train.
My sister's oldest daughters were four and three when I moved from Oklahoma to California. I had seen them almost weekly since the day they were born.
After I moved away, my sister had two more kids and my brother and his wife had three children. Then I married my husband and there are five nieces and nephews on his side.
I have struggled with how to be a good aunt. It is harder to show love from a distance than I would have imagined. I've tried buying them lots of goodies and texting the older ones. At times I've been the cool aunt, the fun aunt, the stern aunt, and the aloof aunt.
You have a different relationship with nieces and nephews because they're your blood, but family dynamics means the lines aren't always clear. I love these little people (and some of them aren't so little anymore), but as time goes on, the aunt role has sometimes become confusing.
Ultimately, I want to be a strong, female presence in their lives. I want them to feel loved and safe with me, knowing that I will always have their best interests in mind. I want them to be able to get by with a little more with me than they do with their parents - that is the fun part, after all - but not so much that either of us feels taken advantage of. I want them to know there is safe haven available to them in California, and that there is someone who would drop anything to be on an airplane if they needed it.
How to communicate all of that with just a few short visits a year? I dunno.