Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If I'd known then...

(Photo: Our nephews -- older, left, & younger, right, wearing their Team Italia World Cup soccer T-shirts -- in June 2006 in their Nonno's garden.) 

Last Saturday night, dh & I met up at FIL's house with his brother, our SIL & their youngest son, who is (gulp) 17 & applying for university for next year. His older brother -- who will be 21 (21!! & "legal" everywhere!!) in just a few short weeks -- was out with his GIRLFRIEND. (We were supposed to meet her at Thanksgiving, but she had her own family obligations -- or so we were told, lol.) 

I marvelled, not for the first time and not (I'm sure) for the last, at what wonderful young men our nephews are growing up to be. (Not to mention good looking.)(Is there just the slightest chance that I could be a TEENY tiny bit prejudiced??) And at how quickly the years fly by. 

One of my big regrets about the years I spent dealing with loss & infertility is that, by focusing so much on my own baby drama, I may have missed out on some precious opportunities to connect with our nephews when they were younger. Now, overall, I think we've been a good aunt & uncle to them. We've been there for every one of older nephew's birthdays & most of younger nephew's. We give generous presents for birthdays & Christmas, & slip them the odd $10 or $20 when we see them. We make a point of getting together at least every couple of weeks. 

And we were there beside BIL & SIL when older nephew graduated from high school three years ago. Curiously, neither set of grandparents seemed interested. I was dumbfounded, remembering the special celebration my parents hosted for my own high school graduation. I was glad to be able to make a bit of a fuss over nephew's. 

And I've taken photos. Lots & lots of photos of both of them over the years. I have probably taken 98% of the photos that exist of those two boys. Dh & I gave BIL & SIL a camera for Christmas just after older nephew was born, but they never seemed to use it much -- something I just couldn't fathom. I grew up in a family where, long before digital cameras or scrapbooking, my grandmother & mother would say, "Get the camera!" My childhood was perhaps not quite as well documented as many children's are today, but there ARE photos. There aren't many of dh & his brother growing up. Different culture, perhaps -- plus, there wasn't a lot of money around in their family for things like photos. And many of the photos that did get taken got sent to relatives in Italy. 

So I've been the "family photographer." Haven't been around for their first day of school or Halloween or numerous everyday moments -- but I've been there for the main stuff -- birthdays and first communions and confirmations and family picnics. Since taking up scrapbooking several years ago, I've been working on scrapbooks for both the boys. Older nephew has two volumes, taking him up to his 5th birthday, & younger nephew has one that's entirely made of photos of his first year. I was tickled to hear they've actually shown them to their friends. I wasn't sure what they would think -- being teenaged boys -- but I figured that their mom & maybe their future wives would love them. ; ) 

And we had youngest nephew overnight when he was about 10. He was playing little league baseball that summer, & he and his teammates got free tickets to a Sunday afternoon Blue Jays game. He wanted to go, but neither BIL or SIL could take him. So they called and asked dh if he would take him. We talked about the logistics involved, & nephew piped up, "Maybe I could sleep over." Dh & I looked at each other & said, "Of course you can!" I think he was curious about us & how we lived. 

We met up with his family at FIL's on the Saturday & took him home with us. I took him over to the dollar store & told him he could have anything he wanted. He chose a small hackysack ball for exactly one dollar & played with it all weekend. That night, we all sat on the couch watching "South Park" (a bad choice in retrospect -- although nephew swore his parents let him watch it -- there was a Terrence & Phillip storyline in which they mentioned -- ahem -- "so.do.my". "What's that?" asked nephew. Dh told him to ask his parents, lol.) "So -- this is what you do?" nephew asked. I think he thought our life would be more exciting, lol. (Me too, sometimes.) 

The next day dh took him on the train into the city & to the SkyDome (whoops, Rogers Centre) for the game. He realized their seats were in the nosebleed section, & when he overheard someone at the ticket window asking if they could trade up their seats, he thought, "Great idea!" They got seats in the 100 section behind first base. As they walked into the stadium, in time to watch batting practice, nephew whispered to dh, "It feels like we're walking into heaven!!" They arrived home just ahead of BIL & SIL & older nephew, coming to pick younger nephew up. He was beaming, bearing player autographs, a bobblehead doll, a pennant, cap & other paraphernalia. "Best $100 I ever spent, " dh told me. 

But. I don't always feel as close to them as I'd like to. Part of that is my natural reserve, and their natural shyness, especially around girls (of all ages). Part of that, I think, is because they're boys. I loved playing with them when they were little and, for awhile, I KNOW I was their favourite. ; ) But as they got older and their play grew more rough-&-tumble, they naturally gravitated more to dh. I found I related much better to dh's cousin's little girls -- we could play board games & Barbie dolls together for hours. 

While we did have youngest nephew stay overnight that one time, I never had older nephew overnight, or both of them together. I thought about it, but it never came to fruition -- and then, poof! They were teenagers, & weren't really interested anymore (if they ever were). Partly because we have a small house & I'd have to clear off the bed in the spare bedroom ; ) but mostly, I think, because the responsibility terrified me. FIL & stepMIL (who live a 15-minute drive from us) had them for several weekends when they were growing up, & dh & I would often step in & take the boys out for awhile to give them a break. Dh took them to Toys R Us once -- ONCE!! (a memorable experience!! -- I warned him!!) -- & we took them to McDonalds and Swiss Chalet for dinner several times. We babysat them when their parents went to weddings. 

I think about my own relationships with my aunts & uncles, and great-aunts & uncles. There are some I'm closer to than others, some I saw more than others (& not always a correlation between the two factors). When I was younger, though, I think I took the relationships for granted. Aunts & uncles were just THERE. I didn't live close to any of my aunts & uncles until I was a teenager, but I still managed to see them several times a year, especially during holidays and at the usual family weddings & such. It wasn't until I got older that I think I really started to appreciate the relationships & truly look forward to seeing them, to sitting at the table with them over dinner or coffee & listening to their stories of the past and of relatives long gone now. I'm thinking (hoping?) that may well be the case with our nephews, too. 


If I could take those years back, I'd make more of an effort. I'd have them both over for more sleepovers, to dye Easter eggs and carve Halloween pumpkins. I'd make sure we showed up at oldest nephew's karate graduation, & younger nephew's baseball games. I'm sorry we didn't make it to either when they were growing up. I kept thinking those would be things I'd do with my own kids, so I didn't place as much importance on doing them with the nephews first. And now it's too late. 

I hope they will think fondly enough of us to look in on us once in awhile when we're old & in the personal care home, and maybe invite us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had a good time last Saturday night at FIL's. Some Saturday nights, it seems we spend more time watching the hockey game on TV than talking, but that night, there were lots of stories, lots of laughs, lots of talk about younger nephew's future. I had saved the recent Macleans university rankings issue for him, & he sat at the table flipping through it. When we left that night, we hugged, as usual. But nephew gave me a big smile, and I thought there was a touch of something more than just the obligatory in his hug. 

Maybe there's hope for some visitors in the old folks' home yet. : )


  1. Thank you for this post. My husband and I have recently made the decision to be childfree after dealing with infertility (and a loss) over the last three years. My sister is expecting her first child in March. I need to move on and be a part of that child's life and let go of the bitterness. Thank you for sharing.

  2. It sounds like you've done well by them, Loribeth, and they'll do well by you. I always enjoy your descriptions of them - and think of them when I read my daily "Zits" comic!

    I remember that in the books and articles about resolving IF without children, the benefit of being closer to nieces and nephews is often discussed as a perk, and almost as an automatic perk, as though we were living in Victorian times and had a bunch of relatives jockeying for favor with the childless and presumably rich aunt or uncle. It might be a perk, but it's definitely not automatic. Awhile ago I realized that D. and I were never going to be the "favorites" among his nephews and niece. They were spending so much time with their cousins, always playing together and thus having more memories of outings, cozy lunches, etc. with the aunt who was an actual parent, too. I had often offered to babysit or take all the kids out to the zoo, movies, etc., but was always rebuffed: "Oh, you don't need to spend your free time; it's easier for [other aunt] to do so, she has kids, lives right in town, etc." A lot of factors can interfere with an aunt or uncle's inclination. The pain of infertility is only one of those factors. Contemporary kids are SO overscheduled that there really aren't many opportunities for bonding. If I wanted to spend every Saturday watching 9-year-olds play soccer, I could do so. If we wanted to take the kids to a minor league game on a certain date, that would literally require months of planning and schedule-checking.

    I remember reading in "Sweet Grapes" that the author and her husband treated each niece or nephew to a trip to Europe or Asia if they completed so many years of foreign language study. That's very nice, but certainly not realistic for most people! And I can't imagine D.'s sisters ever allowing us that kind of leeway. That's the thing -- the parents have to let the aunt and uncle in, too.

  3. What handsome young men! Thanks for sharing your feelings about them as they have grown up. I bet they think you are the cool aunt and will visit you in the old folks home! I tell my teenage nieces and nephew all the time that they will be taking care of me whether they like it or not when I'm an old lady - haha.

    I have found that I'm not as close to my toddler niece and nephew on my husband's side; I've wanted to withdraw due to sadness about my infertility, but your post reminded me to move past it so I can be a big part of their young lives. Thanks.

  4. I can't speak to this from an IF perspective BUT I can speak to as as a parent who has brothers and sisters that I love dearly and who I want to be huge parts of my childrens lives. I look at it as a whole package. My siblings can give my kids things that I can not, they can give them parts and perspectives of my past, perspectives of history that are different and told from anothers voice. I love this and so do my kids.
    It sounds very much to me that you have created a special bond with your nephews. They may not be able to verbalize it to you (boys are always so troubled with communication anyway) but they know.
    And as they come into this young adulthood they will apprecaite you and the husband even more.
    And they will love all of the photos and memories you captured for them. Those are priceless.

    And so are you.

  5. It sounds to me like you have been an excellent Aunt and Uncle. And it also sounds like these boys know it, even if they can't express it outright.

  6. I also saw a connection between your last post (the BBC program) and this one.

  7. Beautiful post. My nieces and nephew mean so much to me. One of the best things about returning to the state where my family lives in the wake of my separation/divorce is being able to be more involved in their lives and to see them more frequently. My oldest niece is (already!!) almost twelve, and the rest are quite a bit younger, but the day when they are heading off to college and the great beyond will be here before I know it. Thank you for this reminder.

  8. I'm LMAO @ the thought of you watching South Park with your 10 year old nephew. I *know* I've seen that episode and I can only imagine.


    I know I haven't commented here a lot lately. But I still read regularly. Not always on time, but eventually. For some reason I just wanted you to know that. :)