As gents we have primary responsibilities to our parents, siblings, spouse, and children, and that’s plenty to keep us busy. But something we can lose track of, if we aren’t intentional about it, is our role as uncles. While it’s often easy to fall into “default” mode at family gatherings, as uncles we can make an important impact: by being mindful of how we are spending our time with our nieces and nephews.
Quality relationships are hard to come by
While technology has obviously improved our lives in many ways, it’s also made it easier for us to move for various opportunities, be they work, education, or sometimes, just to escape nightmare traffic. But these opportunities can often take us away from our families, making it that much harder to build those bonds that form the foundations of all quality relationships. So, while there may be far more frequent opportunities for uncle interactions if you live nearby, there are still ways to stay connected with those nieces and nephews if you live at a distance.
Uncles are different
Uncles are usually older than their nieces or nephews which means they can be positive role models or mentors, but they are also not so old that they can’t horse around and occasionally be silly. For unmarried uncles without children of their own, this is a kind of “parent lite” that can give you just a tiny taste of parenting. Of course it’s not the same thing, but you will have opportunities to deal with, for a limited time, the issues your siblings get to deal with 24/7, and you will gain a greater appreciation for their sacrifices (and be freed of any illusions about childrearing). Volunteering to babysit (instead of just waiting to be asked) will not just give you some time with the kids, but give your siblings some needed time off.
You get to own your niche
We were never given manuals on “how to be an uncle” when we were younger and that’s probably because there’s no one way. At the base of anything you might do with your nieces and nephews is conversation. Getting to know them — at every step of their lives — and what matters to them gives you a disproportionate opportunity to share something that might make a positive difference in their future.
Those conversations can carry on when you read to them or play with them, but they might carry on in emails or letters or video chats that you exchange with each other (especially if you live at a distance). You might be able to do special projects with them or take them on adventures. You get to decide, and you get to give them one more adult in their lives they can count on, who lets them know they are loved and cared for. Don’t let them take you for granted by simply being an uncle “by default.” Be intentional, and in so doing, give them a template to pay it forward when it’s their time to take your place in the story of life.
Do you have any special things or activities you engage in as an uncle? Share with us in the comments below.