The Awkward Aunt
I am an adult person without children. Not only without children, but a youngest sibling who didn’t grow up around neighbor kids - growing up I spent a lot of time with my retired next door neighbor. I didn’t go to daycare. Basically, I never spent a significant amount of time with children younger than me.
The outcome here - I don’t have a lot of experience with kids or the instincts around them and what they like to do.
This summer, I moved away from DC where I would go weeks without even seeing a child - to Minneapolis. Here, I am comparatively surrounded by children. There are nieces and nephews, my friends’ kids, and even a goddaughter!
This is lovely and exciting, and a natural outcome of living closer to my family and being in my mid-thirties. The relocation also means that I get to be an awkward aunt on a pretty regular basis.
I don’t understand the games that are interesting to boys - chase me like a monster? Some variant of basketball? Superhero costumes? I fare slightly better with little girls because I can pull from my memories of dress-up and coloring. I wield a mean crayon.
Most of the time, when encountering one of the children in my life, I feel like one of those adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. There, but not quite able to communicate or play along. Mumbling some dialogue that doesn’t make sense (what, I shouldn’t ask a 3 year old what she’s thinking about for her college major?).
I would like to get better and be a bit less awkward. I’ve asked my friend to tutor me in the ways of children. She has three under the age of four, so I’m in for an adventure as I learn!
Buying gifts for new parents
For two years, I was Chief of Staff for a large organization. One of the things I did in this role was order gifts for new parents.
A small gesture to show our support for our people as they go through a life-changing event. Sounds straightforward, right?
Hardly. This became one of my biggest challenges - how to find something that is thoughtful, and useful, and that they have not received several of at the shower.
Naturally, the first time I was faced with this task, I hit Amazon and came up with some ideas. Things I thought were really neat.
Just to be safe, I ran these items by one of my friends at work, and got back a pretty blunt NO. The things I had selected were wrong for several reasons. Wrong size, wrong material, not useful enough. Wrong in ways that I didn’t even know a baby gift could be wrong!
From that point on, I created a shortlist of actually useful and cute items the I would go back to time and time again. This list was based on advice from actual parents of young children, aka the real experts.
This strategy was much more effective. Although, I do wonder if the new parents ever compared notes and realized they all got the same few things!.
The Family Genes
This summer, I was invited to a first birthday party for my second cousin. Having recently moved back to Minneapolis, I was excited about the opportunity to join a family event I previously wouldn't have been able to attend.
Equipped with the knowledge from buying baby gifts at at work, I was looking forward to buying a cute gift for the birthday girl. I headed over to Pacifier and spent quite a bit of time perusing the stuffed animals and books. I finally landed on a soft monkey attached to a blanket. Pleased with my pick, I had it gift wrapped at the store and was ready to hit the party!
I called my dad the day before the event, and asked him if he also got a gift at Pacifier. He did. Did he get it gift wrapped there? He did.
The conversation then went something like this:
Me: I hope we didn’t get the same thing
Dad: I’m not telling you what I got, it’s a surprise
Me: But won’t it be embarrassing if we show up with the same thing?
Dad: Not telling. You can see at the party
Me: I got a monkey, what did you get
Dad: [long pause]
Me: [internal panic]
Dad: I got a monkey too. And a book about a monkey
Me: Oh. No.
Turns out we had selected the monkey with the blanket, a bigger version of the monkey with no blanket and a book about the monkey.
A whole store of great gifts for a one year old and we pick almost the same thing - family ties are strong in the Montbriand clan!
PS - luckily the birthday girl liked monkeys!
- Kathryn A. Montbriand (follow her blog here!)