My sister got pregnant at the age of 19. My family was cautious, and nervous. She would be trading her upcoming study abroad in Spain for Zane.
It was foreign to me but once Zane was born, my passion for being an aunt is in constant cultivation. Zane was the cutest baby I had ever seen—a Mexican with an Afro. He genuinely giggled and his mother’s beyond belief effort to work with him and love him showed through his characteristics as he began to age. The kid was smart, but calm growing up in a broken home…something I knew all too much about.
I’ve spent two weeks with my sister and her three children since being stateside. We look at world maps, we read, ride our bikes, swim at the YMCA, talk about the elephants in Thailand… we laugh when the six-month-old farts and we have long debates over healthy food. But when the kids’ stepbrother enters the scene after being away, the dynamic changes. To the kids it’s fun for a while but then a realization of forced relationships comes into play. Zane starts feeling left out when his sister and older stepbrother goof off like kids do, and take sides.
Stepparents, stepsiblings, it’s tough. It’s a tough transition for all parties involved. And for some, the tough transition never fades, even into adulthood.
I know what it’s like being young, feeling out of control and left out. As Zane’s godmother I vowed to act like one. Although I have no experience parenting, I have experience listening. Zane and I have had many long conversations about life abroad, poor children without shoes, beautiful mountainous ridges, exotic food, etc. But lately, we’ve been looking for insight into growing up and what it’s like to stay calm and essentially, be the bigger person.
It wasn’t until tonight that I realized the impact and connection I can have with a child. I can be that outlet; I can be a role model and a friend. It wasn’t until Zane ran up to me before we started the movie to calm all the kids down, and he whispered in my ear,
Chele, is it okay if, when I get mad, I come talk to you?
I hugged my brave 8 year old tight, kissed him on the forehead confirming my positive response. As he ran off excited to watch the movie with his siblings, I went into the bathroom and bawled like a little baby.
Feature photo: Zane, age 8 and Taven, 6 months – taking a bath