Sean and I took the girls to our niece’s birthday party over the weekend. Seems simple, yes? Well, it’s not. Her parents are going through a divorce similar to the one my parents went through when I was eight. She is turning seven years old this week.
I am Aunt Julie because I married Sean. My niece is Sean’s sister’s daughter. The party was at her dad’s house. Right now her parents are in the thick of the divorce. They do not interact well together, hence the divorce. Any time my niece is brought up in conversation, people think it’s weird that I talk with both her mom and her dad. People think I should be on my sister-in-law’s side.
This is where it gets really simple for me.
I am on my niece’s side. I am here for her, no matter what. I am here for her like I needed my family to be there for me during my parent’s divorce. The minute my parents split the family divided. Everyone thinks the idea of two birthday’s, two Christmas celebrations, two Easter baskets; it sounds like that would be great.
In reality, it meant that there was always something missing; always someone missing. I would have given anything to have both my parents present to celebrate my graduation. I would have loved to take a picture on my wedding day with my big messy blended family with me in my beautiful wedding gown. Unfortunately, I didn’t even feel like I could ask for that picture.
I went to the party. My niece saw me, and her uncle crossing the line that divorce draws. She saw that not everyone in the family is fighting. She saw that even during a really difficult time, we are all still a family… A big, messy, complicated but loving family.
The way I see it, the day she walked into my life I made a commitment to be her aunt. She is my first niece, and much like Evie changed me when she made me a mommy; my niece made me an aunt. I will be here, no matter how messy or awkward things get. She will always have me to turn to. I will always be here to talk to, to have a fun sleep over with, to help her with her school work, to listen to her when no one else gets it.
Divorce complicated a lot of relationships for me growing up. Divorce has a way of reversing the roles in a family. The children have to start taking care of the adults who now act like the children. All of a sudden my interactions with family members were being evaluated by the “other side”. What did it mean if I went to lunch with so-and-so. What did it mean that I wasn’t mad at my mom for doing this or at my dad for doing that. I had to grow up and so will my niece. My job in all of this is to show her that she’s not alone, no matter what side. No matter who she lives with, or who she’s struggling to get along with. I’m here, and she is never alone. Aunt Julie will always be here sweet girl.