I was always going to have more kids. The Boy and the Girl Child were never meant to be it for me.
I love kids. Well, let me clarify. I love some kids. When I was still in high school my first nephew David was born and despite being a somewhat surly teenager I was immediately in love with a little brown eyed boy who grew to love Barney and said things to me like, "Aunt Steffy, I think I weigh twifty pounds." My niece-child Krista was born the year after I graduated high school and she became my tiny-little BFF. I'm sure a lot of people thought she was my kid. She used to look like me then. She called me Doshie because she couldn't pronounce Steffy. Once she very loudly told me that all she wanted for her birthday was a tattoo. She was three. We were in a church service. In case you are wondering? She's still that awesome.
There have been many, many nieces and nephews after those first two. The newest ones don't watch Barney, instead favoring something called a Lalaloopsy. I haven't heard the word twifty in a few years, but my niece Annie frequently offers me some "slupcakes". Just last night, Dacie called me "sweetheart" and last weekend, her older sister Katie wanted to confide in me some secrets. "Don't tell mom!" she said, before she told me some very random things. Because I'm the Auntie. And I get to hear to hear the "secrets". Even the ones that aren't secrets at all.
Because I live in some awful vortex in which time moves entirely too fast, Krista is graduating from high school this weekend. I know it sounds overly dramatic, as I am not her parent and "only" an aunt, but I cannot allow myself to think too much about this. When I do, I keep thinking of this little redheaded girl with a billion big stories. How she waved and waved at us during her preschool graduation from Bright Beginnings, so thrilled that we were there seeing her. How I cried, literally cried, the first time I heard her sing. Because that kid? She can sing.
David is twenty years old this weekend. In the fall he will head to Florida to intern at his Favorite Place on Earth. He is brilliant, hilarious, and kind. He is pretty much exactly the kind of kid you want your kid to be. Pretty much exactly the kind of young man you hope your daughter brings home. I don't say this just because he's my nephew. I say it because it's true.
These nieces and nephews are my kids. They are my kids too.
I didn't give birth to them. I don't pay for their Happy Meals or soft tacos (okay, sometimes I do) and they only sleep at my place sometimes (some more than others). But they are my kids too.
I love these people. I want what is best for these people. I celebrate their achievements and cry with them when they are down. Other than the very people I gave birth to, they are the sweetest, most promising, most wonderful parts of my family and I am so thankful, so grateful for these bonus kids that I get to have.
I love being an Aunt. It's an honor I don't take lightly. I appreciate every hug, every "I love you". I love, so much, that I can give them cookies and crazy socks and send them home. And most of all, I hope beyond hope that these people know that no matter what happens in this crazy world, Aunt Steph has their back.
So I didn't ever have the kids I intended to have. I didn't have the kids I thought I should have. But I ended up with exactly, EXACTLY the kids I needed.