How to be a Favourite Uncle in 10 Easy Steps!
In real life:
Uncle is a cab driver, a shop owner, a random person you ask for directions or a passerby who throws the football back over the gate. Basically anyone who is above the age of 30, or looks like it – atleast to the kids in my neighbourhood ! We used to be on first-name basis, now its “Uncle” straight up!
Anyways, we focus on Uncle as defined in point 1 above. Being an Uncle is a huge responsibility, that is if you own up to it. Your sister may rely on you for a day of babysitting, or for providing that much needed distraction for an hour when her fav soap plays on TV, or for much needed third person bad-guy intervention in times of total chaos (typical when you have 2 boys or girls few years apart).
Being an Uncle has a very special place in a child’s upbringing, in terms of influence and almost dad-like second opinion. You are a part of the family, yet you are an outsider.
So here are some tips on earning your place as a favourite Uncle with your nephews / nieces (Note: All Tips are valid for Uncles who smartly show up well after the kids are reasonably potty trained! By default, Uncle duties only begin in the post-diaper years) :
1. Remember birthdays and special events:
Crucial. Obviously birthdays goes without saying. If you can remember special events like sports day, drama class, exam dates – not all, some is fine – then you’ll be a hit!
2. Memorise names of friends and school teachers:
Good teachers, funny teachers, seriously scary teachers’ names. Best friends’ names and that bully too!
Leave the “who’s your girlfriend/boyfriend?” questions out, please. Kids don’t need that pressure when they already have enough in terms of homework.
3. Treat them as equals:
Your nephews / nieces get treated like kids anyways by their parents. You’re the Uncle, you’re the dude from outside, treat them as equals – you’ll be more fun. And Kids these days grow up with iPads and iPhones, so it’ll do good to acknowledge their intelligence.
4. Learn a couple of Magic Tricks:
You’re the life of the kiddie party then! Teach them a few tricks and then god help you as now they expect a new trick everytime you show up!
On second thoughts, skip this part.
5. Catch up on Cartoons:
Kids these days don’t watch Tom & Jerry and Donald Duck. Brush up on the latest episodes of Ben 10, Transformers and Dragonball Z. Have a favourite just to sound authentic, remember any special powers that character may have.
6. Let them Teach you:
Next time you spend time with them, allow them to teach you something. Perhaps a board game, a game on Xbox or PS, Lego (you’re done for!), monopoly, painting, transforming cars! etc. Kids love bossing over adults sometimes, it’s good for their ego.
7. Let parents set some rules before you head out:
Maybe someday they’ll want to go to a movie with you, maybe to the park, or the science fair. Before you head out, let the parents set some rules – No running, Hold hands when crossing roads, No Chocolates and Ice Cream, No Balloons, No Tantrums. Let them know Uncle has Power of Attorney to execute certain ad-hoc restrictions as he may deem fit!
8. Allow them to break some rules!
That’s right! If it’s not unreasonable, let them break a rule or two. Make it “our secret”. But always have a condition to it, let them know its not easy to escape authority.
Careful with this bit, kids talk! They spill beans in the most unexpected moments. Also, use this sparingly, overdoing this bit will make you look “easy”.
9. Pay attention:
In as many ways as possible. Apart from watching over the kids like a hawk, pay attention to what they say as well. Kids are mostly high on sugar, they talk fast, change to random topics and expect you to grasp everything. Worse they get really ticked off when you don’t “get it” !!
Instead of “Uh-Huh” and “Hmmm” saying stuff like “how is that possible?” or “really? And then what happened?” or “wow! That’s quite a story!” makes you look attentive.
10. Be on call:
Sometimes you can’t make it in person or have been away for a while. Let them know they can call you (suggest time) and talk if they want. Keep in mind something from the previous interaction and follow up on that conversation – “Did you have fun at that picnic last week?”, “What happened in the latest episode of (cartoon)?” etc etc.
A phone call lets them know you are around.
Now time to go, duty calls….. Uncle.