An Open Letter to Our Aunties

By Samantha McKenzie

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Aunties,

We love you. But we were counting on you to tell us the truth. We knew our mothers wouldn’t and oftentimes grandma thought she shouldn’t, but you, you had a different role to play.

We needed you to tell us about the pitfalls in relationships. We needed you to coach us on how to navigate boys and men, and men that acted like boys. We needed you to teach us about our bodies, our menstrual cycles, and the emotional side of having sex too soon.

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We needed you to go a little deeper than mom did. We already knew you weren’t perfect because we overheard the conversations. So we expected you to tell us the truth and to remind us that we didn’t have to be perfect either.

Most of all we needed your honesty, however awkward, uncomfortable, brutal, embarrassing and weighty it would have been. We needed all of that from you.

We needed advice on school, about moving away from home, putting on makeup, having children and learning how to say no. You should have been able to teach us which secrets to keep, and which ones we should scream out loud. Mostly, because loving us and protecting us came with a hefty price, but a price someone should have been willing to pay.

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Don’t get me wrong, we accept total responsibility for all of our decisions. We aren’t blaming you. Actually, in spite of it all, we learned countless other lessons from you and we are eternally grateful. We understand that you felt obligated to let our mothers do their job. We knew our mothers meant well, but it’s hard to make brave children when you’re only focused on keeping them safe. We knew that grandma, who had carried the load for so long, preferred to pray away our sins in silence. We knew.

What we really needed back in those days was a champion. Someone who would tell us to believe in ourselves, and put ourselves first (not in a selfish way, but in a way that supported the idea that we were important, too).

Trust me, hiding family secrets and not telling us the truth about life only under prepared us for this messy world. The collective silence, in turn, stunted our growth. We needed to know who the real boogie man was and how to stand up to him when he showed up.

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Now that we have become aunties, we are going to take a different approach to save our families. We are not going to let shame and guilt be our compass. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand, or think that prayer, and prayer alone, will suffice. We simply can not afford to.

Instead, we are going to stay three steps ahead and hold their little hands along the entire way. We are going to be a safe place and a lighthouse, and wear our superwoman capes proudly. We are going to commit to sharing more, listening more, and preparing ourselves for those tough conversations that lurk around the corner. Because they’re necessary. And, little lives are counting on us.

Thank you for passing the baton on to us. We will take it from here.

Here’s to more courage, more strength and more honesty. We do love you all.

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen Hall says:

    I enjoyed your article about the expected or needed role of aunties. Aunties are siblings first and aunties later. As such they straddle an awkward fence as they try to be there for nieces while also respecting the boundaries drawn by siblings. A mom may see the relationship between her daughter and her sister (the auntie) as crossing boundaries, intrusive, inappropriate. A daughter who shares a more symbiotic relationship with her mom may feel in conflict turning to auntie for truth, guidance, a safe confidante. And so while I understand your position, I also appreciate that relationships can be complicated, wrought with issues, messy. Therein lies the rub. I wish you all the best in being the auntie you have described.

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  2. Yes Karen Hall, I would agree with all of your points. I hope, in general, for more honesty from both mom and auntie towards our children, in a healthier way that prepares them for life. This article was meant to provoke us and challenge us to be better stewards over the flock. Love you and your input!

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