I was never a full on good person. I wasn’t an ideal daughter because rebellion was my way of filling a void I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wasn’t a good sister because I was so angry that our age gap meant they were more like extra moms that were bossier than our mom. I got hitched and poured myself into being a good wife. I wanted to be what I thought I was supposed to be. As a new mom, that meant keeping a crying infant quiet during long nights alone and keeping the house clean when it was the last thing I wanted to do. It was a lot, and I called my mom when my son was 4 months old and I cried in gratitude because she didn’t kill me as an infant. I let those ideals go when I realized I was putting my son’s life in danger because of what I thought I should do.
I used to lie a lot. Everything was about how I spun it and I felt if I threw enough sugar on it, I could make cotton candy. I lied about big and little things. It drove the ex crazy and stopping was because I had to decide that telling the truth means I’m not ashamed of the truth and if I need to hide it, maybe I need to adjust my actions to live fearlessly.
I get to be an auntie. It may sound silly because none of my siblings are expecting as far as I know, but I get to be an auntie. I have many, many nieces and nephews. When my sisters were pregnant, if they were willing, I was able to rest my hand on round bellies and wait for a tap from the life within. I was in hospital rooms full of gore and only saw the joy of a growing family as I cradled my nieces and nephews and sang the first of many lullabies to them. I gave them hugs and loved them and they were my joy. I saw all of the good in my siblings within the younger generation, but none of the things that sparked sibling rivalries. I poured love and hope into these children and delighted in the visible curiosity in their smiles and the dawning realization of connections made with chubby hands and large heads. I changed diapers and chased naked babies that would flip over and crawl away from me in mischief and my frustration. I got peed on and pooped on (my niece nailed my face and hair) and I had first steps that collapsed into my open arms. There’s so much good in being the auntie that never gets too tired because she gives them back.
I saw one of my nephews today and we talked a bit about life and what he’s up to. I assured him it was curiosity and not judgment because no matter what he does, I will always love and be proud of him because he is my nephew and that is enough. I told him about my love life and what it looks like right now, and he told me how great it is to really see me happy. He expressed his anger with my ex, who was his uncle for nearly his whole life. It wasn’t just the husband he was to me, but the uncle he was to my nephew and the person he was in general. He didn’t have to say it but I know it was the person I was as an auntie with him. In my rush to stay on the high road, I told him he didn’t need to defend me and dishonored his need to be heard and have his feelings validated. Auntie failed. I get to make up for it when I see him again, because I gave him a house key with a fridge to raid and a safe place to come whenever he needs to. I can do that now that I’m the one in charge of my home.
I just sent off a care package to another nephew that just went away to college. As I was shopping and picking out junk foods and snacks, it occurred to me that I had no idea what my nephew even likes. It was another auntie fail. There is nothing to do about that but notice and change it.
I get to be a daughter and spend the time needed by my parent when they are going through something terrifying. I get to trust that my children are safe and cared for and they don’t need me to be with them when I need to be the daughter my Dad deserves and the example of what I think that entails to my kids. I don’t need to wait until I have time or until I can make arrangements. I can just be, because in letting go, there is trust and faith in the support that has been supporting me. The older two were with their Dad. The baby was with my mom and I could just be a daughter.
My big sister said, “Thanks for everything . . . and stepping up to the plate!!” I didn’t know how to respond because I couldn’t admit in that moment that I had held myself back for so long because I needed to be more of a wife than a daughter and I felt the shame and regret filling my lungs and blinked away the tears that didn’t have permission to escape. I was this daughter to my father in law. I was this mother to my kids. I was a wife in what I thought I was supposed to do and failing my individual needs at the same time. I had a long talk with my brother in law and the family consensus seems to be that we’re all happy that I am happy, but it appears that I have a new willingness to do what I wouldn’t have done before and I’m no longer using my role as a wife as an excuse to not be an aunt, or daughter or sister.
I won’t say it’s all about what I was or wasn’t allowed to do. I made a choice. I wanted to make sure my ex was okay with staying home with kids because it was my job as a stay at home mom, but I treated him like he was babysitting his kids. I let this excuse stop me from visiting one of my sisters when she was hospitalized. I’m throwing away excuses and learning to Be. Right now. I’m not waiting to have what I think I need. I’m not creating a list of things I need to do in order to decide that I can do what is necessary. I can be what I choose in this moment.