“I’m Aunt Beckie. That’s my role,” says a friend of mine who welcomes the neighborhood children into her home. “I take the kids out to look at plants and critters. I sometimes use them as free labor – helping to weed the garden or pick veggies, the occasional cookie baking, leaf raking, puddle jumping.” These children adore her, and she them.
It got me thinking about all the “Aunt Beckies” out there, those adults who build special relationships with children who are not their own. When I was growing up, I eagerly looked forward to visits with my 20-something cousins. They would steal my nose, give me piggy-back rides and listen earnestly to my take on the world. When I was older, some family friends took an interest in my brother and me and would cook us dinner and talk to us like adults. They were both illustrators and we loved getting to see their studios and the projects they were working on.
My role reversed when I entered adulthood and developed a close relationship with the two young children of friends. On monthly get togethers, we read stories in the park, visited children’s and science museums, or made “oobleck” in my kitchen. I continue to have a special connection with the young ones in my life – nieces, nephews, friends’ kids. I like to hear their stories, I let them put bows on my forehead, and of course they love it when I bring them to work – to play at the Children’s Museum.
Sometimes these connections with children develop early in their lives. My friend Laura talks about the bond she has with her great niece because she cared for her for a full week when she was an infant. And Tony is special to me because I put him to bed every Wednesday night for the first year of his life while his mom was at work. The attachments that Laura and I have to these children are treasured parts of our lives.
Working at Providence Children’s Museum, I see many parents and children visiting and playing together. But I also see kids exploring, splashing, building and laughing with grandparents, uncles and “big sister” mentors. Children and adults delight in this special time together, which may lead to life-long friendships – and their parents relish the break!
Photo Credit: Cathy Saunders with her friends Tony and Joe
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Bring your special kids to Providence Children’s Museum this summer. Get out and play in the Museum’s Children’s Garden in July. Blow giant bubbles, go fly a kite, investigate slime and more! Also climb aboard an ambulance, a fire truck, a giant digger and other exciting vehicles during Wheels at Work, each Wednesday morning in July and August.