Me vs. Aunt J.

June 18, 2014
Tamara Petkau |

Life has been… hectic. I am reluctant to use the word “busy” because I hate how society has come to embrace the word like a badge of honour, or throw the term around as an excuse for everything. And I find that the more people use the term, the more empty their schedules, and lives, appear. With such a harsh interpretation of the word, you can see why I try to stay away from it. And yet, it still creeps up into my vocabulary, and into my life. But I digress.

My sister, who lives in Montreal, has been visiting us for about a month, and due to my parent’s home renovation project, she has chosen (or been forced) to stay with us for the majority of that time.

Normally, I would get stressed out over having a long-term overnight guest, but with family, I tend to just let the mess of my life continue as usual. I don’t lay out fresh towels, I just point to the closet where they may or may not be. I don’t wake early to prepare a nice breakfast, I just leave the cereal boxes out and, if she’s lucky, some leftover milk. I don’t hush the children lest they wake our special guest. Instead, I encourage them to go jump on her bed so that I may take advantage of her babysitting services. It would appear to be the easiest hosting gig ever. Except it’s been kinda hard.

During this same period of time, my husband has been busy, really busy, so busy that his ordeal warrants such an ugly term. He recently discovered that his thesis, which he thought was due at the end of summer, was actually due in a week. He disappeared into the darkness of the basement reappearing only at odd hours of the morning to refill his coffee mug. Feeling like a saint of a wife, I excused him from all household and parenting duties for the duration of this time. After all, my sister could help.

Except that I don’t really like her help. Because even though she helps with the dishes and grocery shopping, the un-pleasantries of parenting fall solely on my shoulders. All of a sudden, enforcing all of our rules and guidelines and doling out the discipline is my task and my task alone.

Don’t worry. The kids are fine. They are better than fine. They are having the time of their life. My sister is one of my girls’ favorite people and I love that. I love that they get along so well and enjoy each other’s company. I love that they make each other feel so good.

But sometimes, while watching this infinite love and adoration for each other, I get this awful feeling of exclusion because I am Mom and I am no fun. When I attempt to join in their conversations and games, I bring rules and limits and not a lot fun. “That’s bathroom talk.” “Let’s try again, this time with manners.” “You’ve had enough cookies today. Put that back.” “No more playing. It’s bedtime.”  

And while I’m cleaning up the messes of childhood and nagging everyone to pick up, clean up, hurry up, my sister gets to play their hero and sneak them cookies and Frozen video clips and cast them looks of understanding and pity as I carry them off kicking and screaming to bed.

Sometimes it’s really hard to be the bad guy.

I’m struggling to find a balance between rules, boundaries, manners and childhood fun. I’m trying to nag less and play more. But at the end of the day, I am the mom. With that, comes great responsibility, if not great amounts of fun. Hopefully, someday, when they are healthy, well-rounded adults, they will thank me.

In the meantime, they have a really cool aunt they can turn to.

And maybe someday, if she has children of her own, I’ll get my revenge.

Author Name: 
Tamara Petkau
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