While watching game six of last week's World Series, my attention fluctuated between the hyped-up commentary of the TV sportscasters and that of my Facebook feed. At the top of the 11th inning, an old friend, who hailed from neither the Show Me or Lone Star State, posted a status update that rung incredibly true. "It's way more fun to watch a ball game," she wrote, "when you don't really care who wins."
At that moment, I couldn't agree more. While I probably had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for St. Louis (it's just so hard to root for anything from Texas), I was able to sit back, relax and thoroughly enjoy watching hometown-hero David Freese defy the odds and knock in the game-winning Cardinal home run. If the Brewers had been playing, I would have been chewing on my nails, looking away nervously, and pacing the family room floor. It was a pleasant relief to be so emotionally un-invested in the game's outcome.
I wish I could have the same relaxed attitude when it comes to other aspects of my life, especially parenting. But let's face it. No matter what our kids do, we care. A lot. Perhaps sometimes, we care so much we take all the fun out of the experience for ourselves.
I'm not sure I enjoyed a minute of my oldest son's baseball season this past summer. I was always on-edge worrying he'd be the kid dropping the fly ball to right field, paving the way for the opposing team's victory. He's a tough kid with an easy attitude towards sports; he would have easily gotten over the error. Me, I'm not so sure.
The same could be said for watching my daughter's drama camp play. It's hard to appreciate the finer moments of a theatrical masterpiece like "When The Hippos Crashed the Dance" if you are worrying that your own little hippo may crash and burn. Elementary school kids forgetting lines and missing cues can be a delight to watch; the stuff great sitcom moments are made of. Unless, of course, the kid flubbing Henrietta Hippo's big aria is yours.
But as I spent some time with my adorable and unusually active 3-year-old nephew this past weekend, I realized that "aunthood" is an opportunity to achieve that "Game 6 feeling" with a kid I love. When I'm with him I can let my "mommy" guard down and appreciate just how fun observing childhood can be. When he stops a policeman on State Street and asks him why he isn't being a fireman for Halloween, I can find it charming. If it was my own kid, I'd probably have been slightly embarrassed. And when the same adorable pre-schooler uses a tissue to wipe his snot-filled nose and then carefully folds it to place it back in the box, I giggle and try to capture the YouTube-worthy moment on video. Had my own daughter done the same at that age, I'd have been praying no one else was around to see it.
With the kids in my extended family it is bubble gum, kiddy cocktails and a stop at McDonalds if they'd like. With my own kids it's apple slices, milk (white, rarely chocolate) and fast food on very limited occasions. I don't have to pay my nieces and nephew's dental bills, after all.
Being an Aunt has given me the opportunity to enjoy family without the sometimes- heavy of responsibility of parenting. When I am with my sibling's kids I can sit back, and enjoy the game.
I never feel the need to look away nervously.
And I love not missing a thing.