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Friday, December 30, 2005 | I had a sobering thought the day after Christmas: I may be a better uncle than a father.
It’s not the greatest thing about myself but, on the other hand, being a good uncle is a badge of honor. So is being a good aunt. I should know. I have plenty of both and, thanks to my wife I now have even more.
I learned a lot from my dad and mom but there are some lessons they couldn’t teach me. One uncle told me compelling stories about UFOs, which I’m sure influenced me to my current day job, as a writer of paranormal stories for a news agency.
The other gave me my first piece of chewing tobacco and this important but sadly unheeded advice: “Don’t swallow.”
One aunt out east e-mails us addresses for churches in our area we might want to attend (God bless her) and another will discuss her encounter with a channeler (God bless her too).
The realization came while I was hanging out with my nephews and my nephew-to-be was discussing his nasty fights with his brother. So I told them about a schoolyard fight with my twin brother around fifth grade that ended with me dragging by the hair.
They were impressed and I realized that the role of an uncle and aunt isn’t as much about discipline as it is inspiration.
One of my aunts has traveled all over the world and that inspired me to have that wanderlust. Another was in show business and helped me understand the inner workings of tinseltown.
My parents had the hard job: They had to show me reality but my aunts and uncles showed me possibilities.
I’m trying to do that now by showing one nephew how to play “Blitzkrieg Bop” and convincing my niece to backpack across Europe before she hits 26.
Uncles and aunts, I believe, also have a duty to reveal secrets about their brothers and sisters so their offspring can understand them better. Like how you used to listen in on their mom’s calls with her teenage boyfriend or how their father used to have a crush on Barbara Eden.
This weekend, I did that kind of “uncle-ing” to a cousin who’s about 15 years younger. He was making fun of PBS travel guru Rick Steves for being so whitebread and I had to inform him that Steves is not only a member of the National Organization for Reformed Marijuana Laws (NORML) but he also admits smoking the wacky tobacky while writing his books.
You should have seen his eyes light up. “This is great. I have a friend who needs to know this.”
That’s my job as an uncle, to enlighten the younger generation to new ideas. Oh, I try to do that with Alex but since she’s my kid, I have more of a vested interest to preventing her from acting her age than I do my nieces and nephews.
This means while I’m casually playing tag with my nephews in the front yard, I’m also yelling at her, “Don’t crawl under the car before dinner.”
I worry that the fact that as her dad, it’s my job to tell Alex what to do and I’m not always sure myself. It’s sometimes more fun to be an uncle because it’s my job to let my nieces know what they CAN do.
Sadly, the daddy duties mean that I may not be able to have those same valued conversations and moments with Alex that I had with my own aunts and uncles – and I’m probably more of a born uncle than a daddy.
But I’m learning on the job and, luckily, Alex has lots of aunts and uncles who are more than capable of showing her all the possibilities of life available for her choosing.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who finds himself singing the theme song to Dora The Explorer when he thinks no one is listening.