We have all heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” This sentiment was cemented for me when I was 24 and became “Fairy Godmother” to a little girl we simply called Baby for the first six weeks of her life.
Shortly after her birth, my childhood best friend asked me to be a part of this child’s life, come what may. She handwrote a very serious letter, specifying me as the newborn’s legal guardian should anything happen to her and her father.
In less than a year, the apple cart upset and Saige’s parents split. My girlfriend and Saige moved in and we lived together for more than two years.
I have always loved children, and Saige and I grew close — as close as any two unrelated people could be, I imagine. Most days, I would rush home after work to see her, instantly unwinding from a high-fuelled day in a bustling newsroom. Within mere moments of nuzzling her cheek and cuddling up, everything would fade away. I was in love.
As she grew bigger we experienced all sorts of things together. She often crawled into my bed at the first sign of light for snuggles or would sneak into my morning shower just to splash around in the tub as I got ready for the day. When her mom would travel for school it was just the two of us for days at a time.
After her mom got her own place, Saturday nights became ours. I would pick her up for a sleepover giving her mom a much-needed break (though not until I had my own kids did I realize how much-needed those nights probably were!). We did this for another three years, until they moved to a rural area and then I to B.C. Visits became less frequent.
Her name for me then was Auntie Koochin, something I’m lucky to hear these days as this little baby is now close to six feet tall and in her last year of high school in Manitoba. She’s busy with friends and school and is an incredible big sister. She drives. Despite this, the groundwork we laid is still there, even at a distance, and I’m still able to offer her advice and coach her from time to time.
What it means to be an aunt — or an uncle — to a child is different for all of us. But it doesn’t matter if you are related by blood or marriage. Being related, to me, means to be “in relationship with.” And that can be achieved simply by decision. It’s an easy one for me, as the gifts are endless.
When you are in a relationship with someone, you matter. And when you matter, you can help affect someone’s life course.
Recently, I was visiting another mom. We haven’t known each other for long, but have become fast friends, and like so many of us on the West Coast, we are both transplanted from other regions of the country and family is — for the most part — a long way away.
When her daughter, who speaks very little English, came up to me that day to give me a big hug, she called me Ciocia Kirsten, and when I looked over for a translation, her mom smiled and said “that’s Polish for Auntie.”
And with that, my heart just swelled.
Kirsten Andrews offers Simplicity Parenting courses and workshops in the Sea to Sky Corridor. For more information visit www.SeaToSkySimplicityParenting.com or like Sea to Sky Simplicity Parenting on Facebook.