Kirsty Lee Hutton and Nephews

Why being a cool aunt matters

A cool aunt loves you like a mother, keeps secrets like a sister and giggles with you like a lifelong friend.  

I’ve written about it before, but “aunty” is one of my favourite titles. I thought when my nephews were toddlers was the best time, but now they are proper little humans (at six and eight) I think this might be it. I’m sure when they become teenagers I’ll think that’s the best too. Like a parent, I just love them to bits at any age. 

I don’t have kids of my own, so all my maternal love is channelled towards my only sister’s two sons. It has been that way since they were born. It has always been important that my nephews have another adult, besides their parents, that they can turn to and I’ll make sure it stays that way for their life.

Henry, Kirsty and Charlie

I’m not close to my extended family at all. I never had uncles or aunties checking in on me as I grew up, and now as an adult, they’re just old people I see at funerals or the occasional family gathering. I don’t want that for my nephews.

Kids are all different, so what makes one feel special isn’t necessarily the same for the next. To me, a cool aunt isn’t just the one who gives them too much sugar as kids and lets them stay up past bedtime (although that might be part of it). A cool aunt loves like a mother, keeps secrets like a sister and giggles like a lifelong friend. 

What makes a cool aunt is different in every circumstance. From my first eight (almost nine) years as an aunt, here’s what I’ve learnt so far. 

1. Ask their opinions on things that matter to you

As a children’s book author, my nephews can offer valuable insights about what’s cool in the world of kids. I often ask them what they’d like to read about, and even if they’ve got ideas for my marketing. Henry helped me write the blurb for The Unreal Birthday Party and often appears in my marketing material. Even if they don’t always hit the mark with their suggestions, letting kids know you value their opinion on things that are important to you help them know it’s okay to share their thoughts on topics they’re not yet an expert at.

2. Ask their opinions on things that matter to them

I can’t stand football, but I’ll happily sort through player cards and listen to who is tallest/fastest/oldest player in each team. I’ll go along to games to watch my nephews play, or watch with them as their favourite team plays. I’ll ask who they think will win each week and who the best players are. This matters to Charlie. 

Henry cares less about sport, but he’ll tell me about various animals or show me music videos of his favourite songs (or even put on a concert to the karaoke version of songs from movies). Listen attentively, ask questions, make sure they know they can tell you about things that matter to them.

3. Spoil them, and not just with money

Part of this is through time and listening. Parents may not have the time (or energy) to participate in the ranking footballers in order of longest kick or highest jump for the hundredth time. Be generous with your time and you’ll stand out. Jump on the trampoline until your legs hurt. Look at every aisle of the toy shop… twice. Play backyard football or cricket until they’ve had enough (if you can – kids seem to have endless energy when it comes to that).

But also spoil them with money and presents if you’re able. This doesn’t mean sending yourself broke, but you can give gifts or money for no reason. You’re not the parent, they teach responsibility, you can teach the pure joy of unexpected gifts.

4. Teach them (and remember they’re watching you)

You can say the exact same thing as a teacher or parent , but if you’re a respected, cool aunty your lessons hold more weight. Kids learn as they watch you, so occasionally make sure you’re setting a good example. My nephew, Henry, often gets out his laptop and creates stories. My sister sends me videos of him reading his work. One particularly cute story involved a duck visiting Kirsty’s house for “coffee”. It was originally dinner, but clearly my coffee addiction was noted by Henry so he thought coffee would be more realistic. 

Being silly with my nephews at Artvo
Being silly with my nephews at Artvo

I make sure I tell my nephews about my work. While they don’t quite understand the magazine and marketing world, they do know that my team and I write things that help promote businesses. They know when I travel interstate and that I’d been trying really hard, with multiple meetings, to sign up a new client. They shared in my excitement when we finally got them across the line.

5. Love them

And make sure they know it. I really believe that the more loved, safe and secure kids feel, the better humans they’ll be as adults. Tell them they’re loved, tell them they’re special and tell them they matter, and hopefully they will believe it for life.