This blog’s been swirling around in my head for a year now, since my niece Emmi broke up with her first serious boyfriend right before Christmas and her sixteenth birthday. Both passed in a blur of Veronica Mars reruns, crumpled tissues and late-night talks about how hard it is for a sensitive soul to survive in an often insensitive world.
Emmi seemed to think I had my act together and had somehow sprung fully formed into adulthood without experiencing the cruelties of love that ends badly, friends that betray you or the damage you can do by being your own worst enemy.
Or if I did live through these things, they happened in some distant past, long before Snap Chat and Instagram, and therefore hardly counted.
I wanted her to know that my experience is hard won. That mine isn’t a survivor’s tale, but a work in progress.
I’ve learned a lot about myself from watching Emmi grow up – not only because of our similarities, but also because of our differences. It’s like I’m reliving my teen years though her eyes. I’m grateful for this new perspective and think it’s time to return the favor.
So as Emmi’s starts her last year of high school, then heads off to college, the least I can do is offer spoilers, cautionary tales and mile markers to help her navigate all the ups and downs of what’s waiting for her.
I can provide a little Auntie Venom to take the sting out of growing up. (See what I did there?)
I don’t pretend she’ll listen. Look how long it took her to trust me about the evils of boxed hair color, the virtue of green smoothies or the perfection of The Princess Bride.
But maybe she’ll check in every now and then and find out how I coped with some painful rite of passage. Maybe other girls her age or other aunties (biological or otherwise) will use our experiences to start conversations of their own.
Not that I have all the answers. Sometime all I can do is help ask the right questions. My hope is that Emmi will use this info to forge her own path. And if, along the way, I save her from one toxic relationship, one meltdown in an H&M dressing room or one bounced check charge, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.
From Auntie Venom’s Eighties Audio Files:
P.S. You’re Not My Mother!
Actually, I’m not anyone’s mother, unless you count my Rhodesian Ridgeback Kamali, (Which I most certainly do.) Luckily my sister, Emmi’s mom, supports the close relationship I have with my niece, agreeing that the more positive female forces a girl has in her life, the better. I never want to supersede my sister’s authority or turn this into a competition between the cool auntie and meanie mom (my sister is anything but). It takes a village and I’m blessed to be part of ours.