Uncle’s Story - Part 2
The change from the silly Uncle to Special Guardian…
My last blog post (Uncle Story’s Part 1) was a very free flowing piece, which had no real structure or direction. There were quite a few key items I wanted to include in the post, but I soon found that once I got going I went in a completely different direction. I was writing whatever came into my head as I was going. This piece will be very different, and I’ll focus on a question I’ve been asked quite a few times through our Instagram account: “how have you/did you transition from being an Uncle to a Special Guardian”. It’s a great question, and I’m actually looking forward to writing this… mainly because Love Island is on and it’s keeping me from shouting abuse at the TV.
I’ll start off by giving you an insight into Adam the Uncle pre Special Guardianship. Actually, I’ll take it right back to when I first found out that my sister was pregnant, mainly because there’s a great story to tell involving my own legend of an Uncle. To say I was unimpressed in the beginning was an understatement. I’d been the overprotective older brother for a number of years up until the pregnancy was announced. A role I’m sure some of you can relate to if you are an older sibling. And also appreciate the amount of headaches that come as part of the package.
I can't remember how I first found out that my sister was pregnant, but I do remember what led to my own Uncle finding out. To set the scene, it was Easter, and my parents had a few family members round for some lunch. Everyone there knew that my sister was pregnant, apart from my Uncle. Now my Uncle is more than just an Uncle to my sister and I. He’s a man we hold a lot of respect for, and someone who has been there for us through thick and thin. It was probably quite daunting for my sister to have to tell family members about the pregnancy, and I’m not sure why he didn’t know at this point.
Anyway, we’re all sat around the table tucking in, my sister is hardly eating, and said she felt a bit sick and didn’t fancy her food. Within a split second my Uncle turned to my sister and joked, “you’re not pregnant are you?”, immediately turning to my sister’s partner and following it up with “because if she is, I’ll chop your balls off”. I nearly choked on my food. Cue a few embarrassed faces at the table and shades of red I’d never witnessed on human skin before. I thought “oh shit, how is this going to pan out?”. Eventually it was laughed off, but later that evening my sister sent my Uncle a message explaining she was pregnant. To this day he says he had absolutely no idea my sister was pregnant, and we still joke about it now.
Introducing my Uncle, although very brief, is quite apt, as we share a very similar sense of humour, and our style of ‘Uncleing’ (a term I’ve invented, which is like parenting, but the Uncle version) is very similar. It’s almost a direct opposite of parenting. For me, it centred round getting my Nieces and Nephew as hyper as possible, giving them endless amounts of sugar, and then at the first sign of a tantrum, disappearing into the shadows. It also included finding the noisiest, messiest birthday and Christmas presents. Which now I think about it, I’m actually on the receiving end of. My friend Dom has taken it on to another level with some of the presents he’s bought my Niece and Nephew since the Special Guardianship process. Every birthday and Christmas I specifically state “NO PRESENTS THAT EITHER TAKE UP TOO MUCH SPACE OR MAKE A MESS”. Presents from Dom have included... a 6ft giant Pegasus teddy, which was bought off the back of his pursuit to find the biggest toy in Smyths. Make your own slime set; currently stuck to most of the furniture in the playroom and downstairs toilet. A 1000 individual piece jewellery set. And a toy that sends shivers down my spine every time I think about it - a singing toy plane. The batteries to which mysteriously vanished.
So, back to some further insight into how I was as an Uncle. I was the practical joker. The family member the kids loved to mess around with. I’d invent silly games, do silly things, and pretty much pretend I was still 6 years old. The only downside to this was when my Nieces and Nephew learned the word “again”. Every silly game, every silly stunt was always followed with “again”. I’d throw them in the air and catch them, and then hear “again”. In the air they’d go. “Again”. And so on. You’d think they’d have gotten bored. Oh no. Not in the slightest. To be fair, I shouldn’t moan really. I was probably having just as much fun trying to send them into orbit. You can probably tell the main focus of my Uncleing was fun.
The second focus was to give my sister and the children as much support as I possibly could. Although I was a serial wind up merchant and joker, there was always a side of me that wanted to try and help with setting a good example to the children. The complete lack of involvement from my youngest Niece and Nephew’s “dad” in their life meant there was a need for my Dad and I to act as the children’s main male role model. Something that since my sister passed away has really played on my mind. I’m often over analysing how I help to raise the children. Am I doing the right thing? Is this what my sister would have wanted from me? What do other people think? It takes up a lot of mental energy. You don’t get any training on this. You’re in at the deep end from the beginning and left to figure things out for yourself. Granted, we have support from various different people which helps. But the battle still happens in your own mind.
On a lighter note. I was a very proud Uncle. I absolutely adore my Nieces and Nephew. All three are very different characters. All three have their own bit of individual magic about them. All three stunningly beautiful. I loved spending as much time with them as possible. My eldest Niece was born during my first year at University, and I always remember looking forward to coming home at Christmas to see her. There’s a great photo of me sitting in front of my parents fireplace fast asleep with her in my arms that very Christmas.
All-in-all being an Uncle is an amazing feeling. And that’s still the case today, but I’m no longer just an Uncle to my youngest Niece and Nephew. I’m now a Special Guardian too. And although that is just a title on a piece of paper in the office, it has been a life changing experience that has come with an immense amount of responsibility. And to some extent greater pressure. It has also meant my perspective has changed quite dramatically. Yes, I’m still a joker and love to have as much fun as I can with my Niece and Nephew, but I’m now raising the children, and have to look at a much bigger picture.
One part of this bigger picture I talk about is behaviour management and discipline. Whatever you want to call it, it had only ever been a very small part of my previous life as just an Uncle. Overnight it had completely flipped and was something I was dealing with on a day-to-day basis. It was extremely tough in the beginning to suddenly change to a more authoritative figure. I wasn’t familiar with it, and neither were the children. Of course the fun loving Uncle was still there, but I was now setting boundaries, dealing with tantrums and bad behaviour. This was the hardest thing for me. For a short period of time the children seemed to react badly to the change in my role. I would be told I was being mean if I had to change the tone of my voice for whatever reason. There was definitely a change in how the children saw me as a person. I had previously been someone who the children were excited to see, but now I was there day in, day out, dealing with the behaviour side to their lives, this seemed to change.
This change wasn’t extreme, but to give you some context, I remember asking my Nephew for a cuddle, something he would normally welcome with open arms. This time though, he looked at me, shook his head and frowned at me. It was very upsetting. I wasn’t surprised, there were signs that something like this would happen. There had been a change in routine for the children, their mother had passed away, and they were now living at Jade’s parents house. It was a difficult time for everyone, and easily the toughest few weeks of my life to date. Everyone around them was making a big effort to make the children happy, buying them toys, spoiling them, and so on. And rightly so for what they had to go through. This was still the case for me too, but I still had to make sure I was making the right choices, setting the right boundaries, and doing what was best for the children in terms of their upbringing. This wasn’t the case for the rest of my family, or anyone else other than Jade.
Luckily, Jade and I shared/share very similar ideas on how to raise the children, something that we take great care with, and also make sure that when necessary, the decisions we make are right by my sister, and how she would want them to be raised. My sister would be extremely proud of the way the children have grown and developed, and this is mainly down to the amazing job she did as their Mother. I think I mentioned this on my last blog post, but I never really fully appreciated the sacrifice and effort my sister went to in raising such amazing children. My biggest regret is not telling her what an unbelievable job she was doing more often. It is something I have sadly only understood better since she has passed away.
I’ve just realised I’ve only really shed a tiny bit of light on the difference between my role as an Uncle and Special Guardian. The reason for this is that I have so much to write on every aspect of this journey, that sometimes I go slightly off piste, and talk about something I hadn’t planned to. I’ve now hit my three page limit I set before writing this, and again, like my last blog post, I’m left feeling like I could write another 100 pages. The main difference though, as discussed, is the way in which I’ve had to become a more authoritative figure, and try to balance this with the same fun loving Uncle the children have always known. It has not always been easy, but the relationship I have with my Niece and Nephew couldn’t be any stronger or more loving.