Infertile Phoenix commented on Klara's post:
[This] is exactly why I get so annoyed and frustrated when people suggest to infertile people to just get involved with other people's children. No, it doesn't work that way. I have had enough loss in my life. I don't need to get emotionally invested in someone else's kid when I am not going to get to remain in their life. It's too painful to love, spoil, and cultivate a relationship with a child when, as the child grows up, the child and her parents forget about you or stop making time for you. I have learned this from experience.(IP does go on to say she still enjoys a special relationship with her niece & nephew.)
This made me think about my/our relationship with our two nephews (dh's brother's two boys). I've written before about my experiences & emotions as an aunt, and how much we adore these two. When we moved here two years ago, being closer to the nephews (particularly as we age) was a big reason. And for sure, we've seen a whole lot more of them than we would have if we'd remained in our old community, on the other side of the city.
But I wish we saw more of them than we do right now. (How much would be enough? I'm not sure.) Right now, we drop by BIL & SIL's house once a week or so, or they come here for coffee, or to pick us up & we go out together -- mostly on weekends but occasionally after dinner on a weeknight. Older Nephew & his wife (& the dog ;) ) live in their basement, and Younger Nephew is still living at home (technically, anyway...!), so we might get to see one or both of them when we go over there. But the boys have only ever been to our condo a handful of times, always with one or both of their parents.
Maybe things would have been different if we'd lived closer when they were younger, and had the chance to share more experiences with them. I wrote once about how I would have done things differently, had I known they were the closest thing I'd ever experience to having kids of my own.
But they're not little boys anymore, or even teenagers. They're young adults now (25 & 29), with their own friends and lives and fiancees/wives and jobs -- and, perhaps soon, their own families to worry about. They're absorbed in their own lives right now, as young adults generally are. ;) I think about my own younger days -- I love my aunts & uncles and am grateful for their support. I stayed with both my aunts in the city near where I grew up, many, many times over the years, with my parents and by myself. When I had medical appointments with specialists at city hospitals, or an early flight to catch from the airport, or a school science fair or debating competition to attend -- their doors were always open. But how often did I go to visit them when I was attending university in that same city, or even just call them up? Not very often at all, I am sorry to say. (Ah, youth...) Younger Nephew already spends most of his free time at his fiancee's parents' house (where they'll be living in a basement apartment after the wedding) -- even his own parents complain that they never see him anymore, and the wedding hasn't even happened yet. ;) What chance do we stand of seeing him more often, as a mere aunt & uncle, right??
I know the nephews love us, and they're both grateful for the support dh & I have given them through the years. They know we're here for them, always. And I don't doubt that if we really needed their help, now or in the future, they would be here in a flash.
(I would hate for them to read this post, sometime in the future, and feel guilty, that they did something wrong. If anything, I feel it's my fault for not making more of a conscious effort to build those relationships when they were younger, when I had the opportunity. It's just the way things have worked out, and the way things are, as kids grow up and start to lead their their own lives. Aunts & uncles can be/are beloved -- but not necessarily a priority.)
But Infertile Phoenix is right. It is a special thing to be an aunt, &/or to have other cherished children in your life... But other people's children, no matter how close you are or how special the relationship, are simply not a substitute for having your own children, as some parents might suggest.
It's. Just. Not. The. Same.