I absolutely love this Modern Love piece, about loving kids and connecting with them but not necessarily wanting your own. Being the creative, unreasonable, anarchy-embracing relative to give a kid space to be a little bit wild? Wonderful.
I had one of those relatives (an aunt, actually) and going to her house was magic. She had all kinds of cool stuff. She let my sister and I run around the neighborhood howling like wolves after dark (“werewolfing,” we called it). She encouraged us to “eat the wind” — to go out and play, to do what felt right, to toss aside caution and reason for just a little while.
Evan James, the Modern Love author, writes:
I like to imagine that my siblings’ children will eventually make as many mistakes in life as the rest of us have. Who knows. But I hope, too, that I can live up to my new role if they do. If my niece eventually runs away from home, cuts off her hair and starts eating psychedelic mushrooms every day, I’ll be there to take her to look at Francis Bacon paintings, let her crash on my couch and listen to her talk about how she kind of wants to move to Berlin.
Likewise, if my nephew — fat little question mark that he is at present — finds himself plunged into existential crisis in his mid-20s, I’ll be there. “Of course you should drop out of Harvard Business School and travel the world in a rickety schooner with three people you just met,” I’ll say. “What are you waiting for?” Most parents are stuck being the voice of reason; it’s the luck of the solitary gay uncle that he gets to be the voice of creative anarchy.
Of course, my niece and nephew may become C.F.O.’s, gastroenterologists or personal injury lawyers. They might just decide they love the suburbs, marry young and find themselves wealthy, healthy and happy as clams. In which case, watch out, kids: it’ll be me coming to stay on your couch.