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That Moment When…

August 23, 2013

That moment when your niece suddenly becomes your friend and is a really awesome big sister to your own daughters … priceless. šŸ™‚

K just turned 20. I’ve known her since she was 2 1/2 years old and fresh off a plane to be my flower girl. What a brave little thing to fly half-way across the country with only her grandmother, uncle and 5-year-old brother to come basically perform in front of strangers (300+). And get stuck in the Blizzard of 1996.

Over the years I have watched K grow up. She and her siblings came out every summer to enjoy time with my in-laws. I loved–and still do–being “Auntie”. I endured Disney movies and Chuck E. Cheese before having children of my own.

I do remember having to chastiseĀ an 11-year old K and her sister for being overly bossy to a three-year old T1. You see they were harshly telling T1 to stop touching things in their uncle’s apartment or grandmother’s house, telling her not to go there or there, and not to play under such-and-such table. After listening to it and putting up with it for a day or two, I had to put on my mean-Aunt face and voice and call them on their bossyness. “Girls, you seem to forget that unlike you, she lives here. This is her second home. She knows what she is allowed to play with and where she can go. And second, if Uncle Dragon doesn’t want her touching something, let him tell her–it’s his apartment. If you guys are this bossy now, what will you do next year when T2 is walking and into things as well?”

When K’s younger sister became critically ill at age 5, life was not easy for any of them. C will live with life-long effects of the condition but every day is always a gift. From my previous career I was actually aware of a phenomena called “Well Sibling Syndrome” and concerned about K. In fact I made it a point to give her one-on-one Auntie time as my MIL usually had her hands full with C’s care and needs. I hope I had made it clear that ifĀ K ever needed to talk, I was there. I watched as she matured and could help my MIL with C’s care with competence. She talked about becoming a medical researcher to help children like her sister in the future.

Not an uncommon thing in siblings of ill children. I have another step-nephew who speaks of doing the same to find a cure his brother. Often other well siblings goĀ on to beĀ therapists or in social work fields if the illness is mental or from abuse.

Month long summer visits became too much for my in-laws so they were paired down to two-week visits. When K was 12 I got to treat my in-laws to a week at the beach. I was the same age when my favorite aunt flew me to join her family at the beach. I hope it is a special memory for K now too. It was just me and my girls, my in-laws, K & her brother. The following summer all the nieces, nephew, the Chief, his brother, and my in-laws made a return trip to the beach … it was a little more intense with all of us (and *ookoos*–so not a pleasant memory!).

My in-laws began a new tradition as the nephew went into his senior year–Disney! Two years later we went for K’s trip. But I noticed she was still a little too accommodating to her sister’s moods and choices. I did feel better thatĀ K was starting to talk about different career choices, going from medical research to bio-mechanics to engineering. She entered college an engineering major, acknowledging she “can’t handle blood.”

The nephew does not come for summer visits anymore. K and C only came out for one week last year. Our own busy summer schedule prevents much visiting even when they are here. This summer would have been C’s pre-senior year trip but my in-laws have a milestone anniversary next year and want to go on a cruise (plus the heat of a Disney summer is not good for them or C). Rather humorously my SIL’s family seemed to have forgotten this discussion. Thankfully, no hard feelings–they went to Disney anyway courtesy of my in-laws and we planned to visit them in Texas in August. I had to laugh with K and ask, “Do you honestly think your grandparents would ignore such a huge milestone for C? Seriously?”

Texas was such a fun visit. I saw K with new eyes. When did she get old enough to drive us around? And yet as we bounced around Texas roads she remembers the bouncy intersection the Chief used to always take at top speed to make K and her brother squeal. During the 2+ hour drive to Six Flags over Texas we had long chances to talk; the same when she drove us 4 hours to her college to finish moving her into her apartment. Her apartment! We met her cat and her friends. She showed us around her campus student center (making T1 drool). And she convinced me she’s not a tree hugger in spite of her new major. Good ’cause we were going to have to talk…

At Six Flags she gently encourage T1 to try rides. She got me to ride rides I would never try–the Superman and 400-foot swings. Oh the things I would do out of love for my niece! We stopped at Whataburger! on the way home and I watched as even though she is an adult K sat at the kiddie table with my girls. In fact all vacation she sat with them. At 20 I wanted nothing to do with the kiddie table.

T2 wanted a BatGirlĀ cape as her Six Flags souvenir. K tried to find a simple black Batman cape but there was none to be found. So she got a Robin cape after I mentioned that there had indeed been at least one female Robin. (T1 got a really cool paint-splattered SuperMan/Girl shirt.) So any time T2 donned her cape she insisted K do the same and she so gamely obliged (and let me snap pictures). Yup, awesome big sister material.

Bat Girl & Robin! POW! Cousins Forever!

Bat Girl & Robin! POW! Cousins Forever!

What a special young lady. I can’t wait to go on the cruise with her next year!

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