Almost a year ago David, who is Nephew Travis’ boyfriend, texted me to tell me that the kids were watching the Harry Potter movies and they decided I was Molly Weasley.
He has, I am fairly certain, been regretting that text ever since.
I tease them about being an overweight, strangely dressed, frumpy and dumpy woman with scads of red curly hair. We joke about the cooking and knitting.
We never talk about the fierce.
I watch over these young people, trying to love them with open hands. I try so very hard (and so often fail) to bite my tongue and leave off the criticism and only share the love and the support. I try to be the practical person who tells them about banking and cooking and how to buy shoes. I try to keep my worries and my fretting silenced, shared only in my prayers. I try not to pry.
Molly is none of that, nowhere near so distanced. She lectures, hectors and loves, passionately. Her children, whatever else they may have or not have, will always know they are loved.
These young people that I love – they are not my children. And they will never be at my house for Christmas, for Mother’s Day. I will not be the first phone call upon engagement or child birth. I am not their mother.
It’s hard to write this without sounding terribly pathetic, and terribly pathetic isn’t what I am going for. It is not the same thing – at all – to be an Aunt. It insults motherhood and my relationship to them to equate the two. There are different rules, different affinities and different bonds between the two.
Five years ago I realized that the only way make my peace with Gabriel’s death, with my lack of children was to find contentment in what I had. I have mostly done this. I accept the gift of my nieces and nephews for what it is – a chance to love others, a chance to help nurture and care for them. I try not to focus on what it will never be: the same as having children of my own. Being an Aunt is not a substitute for being a mother.
And in Molly Weasley I see the mother I would most like to have become – caring, passionate, fierce and loving. Deeply involved.
So this – on Sunday night I joke with the kids about being fat and frumpy. I joke about Weasley jumpers as I make them socks for Christmas. Sometimes I stray too far into their lives. And when it becomes that – when it becomes too lecturing and too passionate, I step back and remember, I am not Molly Weasley.
I don’t know who I am. There are no grand roles for Aunts.
And I don’t ever tell David – I regret the text too.
Mrs. Jessica Fletcher was an aunt to half the people in the world, I think, and she was a pretty awesome lady. 🙂
I think my aunts sometimes feel/felt that way – they always seemed surprised when I would voluntarily go to spend time with them, or help them when they needed it, or remember their birthdays. But they are my family, and they do have grand roles. They’re the people you can go to when you need to talk without judgment. They’re the ones whose experience is very different than what you know, because you didn’t grow up with them in your house. They’re the ones who love the best part of you because you don’t have to show them the ugly side (even though they’re wise enough to know it’s there). They’re the ones who give you their file on Ireland, because they went and your parents didn’t. They’re the ones who teach you how to make Grandma’s chicken soup and noodles because your mom wasn’t interested enough to learn. They’re the ones who take you for 2 weeks in the summer, just because.
You may think the role of aunt is not grand, and in some families it isn’t. My daughter wonders why she knows my sisters (including the one who she’s only seen twice) better than she knows her father’s sisters who live nearby. It’s because my sisters know how to be aunts – to be involved, to be interested, to show love. And that makes a difference. So don’t sell yourself short – you may not be Molly Weasley, the mom. But Molly Weasley, the advocate, the giver of love, the warrior – well, I’d say you’ve earned that title.
I haven’t (yet) read Harry Potter.
I do not embrace my role as an aunt well. I have nieces on my side, and a plethora — a veritable plethora, possibly a plethora squared — of nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews) on my husband’s. I am fond of them. I love them! But the space they occupy in my life (not my heart, that is a big space) is small.
I also occupy other roles. Stepmother (to adult children) and mother (to a young child). Soon (fates willing) I will get yet another role, stepgrandmother.
The step, it is not the same. Perhaps for those of us who hold it, it is similar to aunthood. I am not the mother. I do try to take on all the responsibilities of the mother, even though she is a good person and is also here and also present and also involved. I do not mean that I seek to replicate her or replace her. I don’t. But I have willingly and enthusiastically paid for college, paid for health insurance, paid for weddings. I have helped fix plumbing fixtures in young adults’ homes. I have sat on the bathroom floor with a moaning young adult, cleaning up vomit, and made the decision that it was time to go to the ER (dehydration of the moaning person). And I have had the real mother (because it is true, a stepmother is not a real mother) show up in my house (which used to be her house) and survey the situation, standing above us, me and her moaning child (adult child) on the bathroom floor, and reach the same decision (to go to the ER, due to perceived dehydration. We were, both of us, correct, by the way. And happily the underlying cause was nothing but a bad stomach virus.). But a different decision, at the same time. The mother’s decision, not the stepmother’s decision.
My experiences have not been your experiences. But drawing on my own experiences, I think I can relate. For those prone to think about such things — at least, for me — it’s both an odd and an interesting place to be.
I have felt guilt of late that I have not overcome my pregnancy losses and found a way to be present and supportive of my very young nephew. They live in a different country, but there are choices I could make to see them more frequently during their visits to see the rest of the family or to communicate with them more often. It does not help that the nephew’s father is the sibling I have the least in common with or that when the sister-in-law asked my mother for advice on how to be compassionate about or losses my mother informed her that we were tough and nothing bothers us. So completely untrue and yet believed. Sigh.
Sometimes when we have a TV show or movie we really like, we assign family or friends to each role. And sometimes the matches don’t fit exactly, but the choices are limited (for example, husband, my son and his friends like “Trailer Park Boys,” and have nick-named a bunch of us characters from the show). Wasn’t Molly an avid knitter? Perhaps that, along with your loving, nurturing nature (i.e., all her kids’ friends were always welcome and treated like family) was enough to make the match. Take it as a compliment, but don’t read too much into it. 🙂
So I’ve been thinking about this. On multiple levels.
There is Molly Weasley, mother. Which I agree you aren’t. Then there is Molly Weasley, friend and supporter. The woman who makes a sweater for Harry for Christmas, and welcomes many into her kitchen to feed them. Who worries about Harry and Hermione along with Ron. Who worries about the well being of all of the members of the Order of the Phoenix. Who supports Arthur with his passion of Muggle things, even if she doesn’t fully get it herself. Who knits. Who is passionate. If cards had played out differently, I could see you similar to Molly Weasley-mother as well.
The role of ‘mother’ is different than the so many other roles of supportive guiding women in our lives. This post, along with a few current situations in my life have made me really think of what these roles are and mean, and how we can come close to defining them. My sister this summer jumped into the role of ‘mother’ for a 5.5 year old boy. Her fiance son. This boy never had had a ‘mother’. His birth mother never allowed him to call her that name, as she didn’t want to be. She is struggling with she was prepared to be ‘stepmother’ but not ‘mother’. Yet, she is not ‘stepmother’. A young adult niece is struggling. Her relationship with her mother is rocky, very rocky at the current state. As I reach out to her, I’m not trying to be mother. She has one, one she is struggling with, but one all the same. Could she use an adult who is concerned about her long term well being? Is interested in her? Yes. An “Aunt” or “Uncle” might be the role she needs at this point. (Well, she really needs ‘mother’ as well but sometimes space is needed). Or a Molly Weasley that she goes and spends time with away from her parents home? Possibly yes.
An Aunt isn’t a Mother. But somethings at some times are impossible to tell your mother, but you can tell your aunt.
Dh told me once, some years ago, that his brother once said to him, “You’ll always have the boys” (our two nephews). Like they would make up for the fact that we have no (living) children of our own.
They don’t. I adore them, and I think I’m a pretty good aunt, and I love being an auntie. I wish I had been a better auntie to them in the years when I was struggling with trying to start a family of my own. I think dh would say the same. It’s a great thing to be an aunt. I feel very lucky to have them in my life.
But it’s not the same thing as having your own children. I appreciate what BIL was trying to do, but it doesn’t compensate for the losses in my life. They’re wonderful boys, I love being an aunt, but they are not my children, I am not their mother and it is not the same.