Long Distance Auntie

The girl and I circa 2006

I’ve always been a long distance Auntie.  My brother and sis-in-law started their family in 10 years ago in Denver.  Despite the miles, I have still been a part of my niece’s (affectionately know as “the Girl”) and my nephew’s (affectionately known as “the Boy”) lives.  I fully credit my sister-in-law for the reason I am able to have a close relationship with my niece and nephew.  She has been wonderful about taking and sending photos of the Boy and the Girl. As soon as they were old enough to produce art work I would get my own care package filled with lots of art from the kids.  On phone calls she would give the kids the phone, even before they were talking well. The boy was notorious for heavy phone breathing.  She even made a binder for the kids with photos of all of their out-of-town family.  The kids would point to faces and learn names.  When I would come to visit they recognized me right away. Just last week we had a video chat with Boy and the Girl. They were goofy and silly and it was so great to see them.  My sister-in-law has really fostered a long distance relationship that doesn’t feel long distance.

On a random side note how do you pronounce A-U-N-T?  Apparently everyone except native New Englanders pronounce the word like the small insects that visits you on picnics.  I say it two ways depending on which side of the family I am talking with. I use a hard a ” ănt”  for my midwest Aunts and a long a “änt” for my Mom’s side of the family.  Both sides of the family think it is silly when I say it the other way. I’m hoping my new niece and nephews pronounce it the New England way… “Ant” Amy just sounds silly to me.  Although I will likely be called “MeMe” because its easier to say than Amy, but I digress.

I’ve thought a lot about how to be an Aunt from a distance.  Matt’s siblings have started families in the past couple years and his family is starting to spread out geographically.  While geographic dispersion is the norm in my family, it isn’t in his family. His family is used to everyone living in the same town.  Getting used to having family in different time zones is an adjustment for everyone .  With the addition of new nephews and nieces I have thought a lot about what we can do to make the miles seem less.

The first thing that popped into my head was to make a family faces book for the little ones.  I took my sister-in-law’s idea and expanded it. I noticed how much kids like the thick board books. Instead of a binder I was going to make a family faces kid book.  With a little research I found a website where you can design your own board book!  MyCustomStory.com lets you create either a 4″x5″ book or a 6″x6″ ten page book starting at $27.95.  The books are just the right size for little hands.  I gathered photos of the immediate family and designed a cute cover.

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I couldn’t be happier with the results.

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By including everyone in the book (all of Matt’s siblings, their spouses and Matt’s parents) I could design one book and use it for all of my nieces and nephews. I might even take off the “XOXO Uncle Matt and Aunt Amy” and print one for our “future kiddos”.

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Special time with our brand new niece

The most important thing that we can do as long distance Aunt and Uncle is to spend one on one time with each of our nephews and nieces when we visit. It’s in the one on one time that the relationships form. Being accustom to our faces just means that we have less “who is this strange man” and more “look there is Uncle Matt!” when we do get that one on one time.

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Matt chases our 18 month old nephew

Do you have any suggestions for how to make the distance seem less? Other long distance Aunts and Uncles out there?

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2 Comments

Filed under Musings

2 responses to “Long Distance Auntie

  1. Alice

    That book is genius! We have seven kids, and two of them live far from us. Those two don’t have kids of their own yet, but I will definitely steal this idea when they do! You are so creative and loving. I bet you are for sure the favorite “ant”! (I’m from Chicago!)

  2. I say ‘ant’ but wouldn’t say all Canadians say it that way, I have friends that say it the other way.

    All my aunts & uncles live in England, so we’re definitely a long-distance family! It’s sad to say, but Christmas and birthday presents really fixed them in my young mind, although I do remember little me being worried about accidentally calling my uncle by each other’s names.

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