No one grows up dreaming of what kind of uncle they are going to be. Father? Yes. Husband? Sure. Grandfather? Definitely. But the role of uncle seems to be somewhat neglected in the planning process, at least until you become one. Then you wonder what the heck it’s all about and wonder if you are going to be a good one.
I got the call yesterday afternoon that my brother and his wife had delivered a healthy baby boy.
This awesome news got me very excited! (He is super cute isn’t he?! Sorry Abby, but I think he looks like Matt!) But it also made me nervous because I was now an uncle and I didn’t really know what that meant. While I am no expert in fatherhood, I think I at least have the basic rules of that down. An additional complication is that I have a considerable amount of Y chromosome related knowledge (you know… how to correctly hold a football, Nintendo secrets,
Risk world domination strategy how to find creative ways to yet again lose at Risk to your brothers, etc.) but no one with a Y chromosome to whom I can pass it on. However, I don’t want to supercede the role of my brother as dad (kind of a big deal!) What is a committed, but confused, newly minted uncle to do?
Upon further review, I have had some great role models in the world of (uncling? unclery? uncleology? uncology? Screw it, I’ll be boring and say) being an uncle. My uncles (all 7+ of them) have provided me with a lot of treasured memories and have affected my life greatly.
There was the winter before college, when I was trying to figure out where I should go. One of my uncles took me out to lunch downtown and imparted some wisdom (and also gave me some frequent flier miles to visit USC!) When I was off to high school at the alma mater of my mom’s three brothers, they all came together to buy me a coveted letterman’s jacket. (Of course, I initially thought the gift certificate was for catcher’s equipment, but its the thought that counts.)
My dad’s brother lived with us for awhile when I was kid. He was the first adult I had ever seen drink milk at meals on a consistent basis (which I found fascinating), but more importantly he helped me to fully realize my love of games and puzzles (and how to be smart but not too much of a show-off about it.) My other uncles who lived in the wonderland that is “Wisconsin” taught me about some of the joys of playing croquet in the front yard, living on a farm and enjoying life on the lake.
Probably the best role model for being an uncle is actually my own father. Growing up, my dad was the uncle to whom all of the little kids flocked. I think deep down he is still a kid at heart (I don’t know anybody like that!) and he would get down on the floor and play with all of my little cousins, give horsey rides, make an excellent (and never duplicated) bullfrog noise and just be there for them to have fun.
So Alexander, I know we haven’t even met yet, but I am going to be your uncle and I am going to be the best one that I can be. I come from a long line of tremendous uncles, including your own dad and our little brother, Uncle Beanbag (who both do a bang-up job of seemlessly alternating between charming prince and evil monster to Hannah’s hero princess, among other high level unclery skills.) I’m going to get down on the floor with you and be your personal jungle gym. Someday, I will “let” you beat me at Risk, just like I used to “let” your dad (and uncle and grandfather and small infants and large cats and…) beat me. When you get older, I will tell you a few stories about your dad. And I will definitely help to get you your first letterman’s jacket.
Unless you decide to go to St. Rita. That’s going to be a deal breaker….