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The Kids Don’t Need to Be Afraid of Great Aunt Elsie

Great_aunt Time and distance can be a brutal combination when it comes to visiting extended family, especially family members who are quite up there in age. I tend to forget about my great aunt except for on holidays or when someone mentions Pensacola, Florida. It is horrible, and I’ll admit I am a bad great niece most of the time. Still, though, I want my kids to understand that family is important, and that we should try not to forget our elderly family members. We tend to forget them because they can’t visit like they used to, can’t hear on the phone, and don’t always have the energy to write a letter. I know my great aunt doesn’t drive any longer, and just getting around is hard for her.

Sure, great aunts can also smell funny and have hair in places they shouldn’t, but who doesn’t at the age of 90? My husband and I recently took a trip to Disney World in Florida, and we started and ended the trip with visits to each of our remaining great aunts. We knew they had gotten much older since we saw them years ago, and weren’t sure how the kids would react to our elderly family members. I was concerned because I remember as a kid being quite fearful of my great grandma, mainly because she seemed to have really saggy skin and was a bit out her mind (now I know it was because of Alzheimer’s). She looked much older than my “old” grandmother and she also couldn’t hear, which escalated my fear.
Hubby’s great aunt Elsie is 92 and lives in an assisted living facility in a one room apartment. Imagine, a 3.5 year old and a rambunctious 2 year old in a very small room with lots of breakable memories everywhere. It was stressful keeping them from grabbing picture frames off the shelf or knocking the chair into her very old lamp from her Red Cross service in Korea during the Korean War. I was also nervous about them being fearful of her.

I was, however, very impressed with my children. Hubby and I had discussed who our great aunts were in regards to their place in the family, that they were older, and that they loved us very much. Our excitement to see them rubbed off on our kids. We didn’t want to make a big deal over their age and how they couldn’t get around as well as us, mainly because I didn’t want my kids to think they were scary or strange just because the women had aged. I figured my 2 year old was too young to ask and my 3.5 would ask and I’d nicely tell her the truth.

We had a few bumps, such as: the kids didn’t want the aunts to touch them or hug them (my 3.5 year old would say she was scared…luckily, neither aunt can hear well), when the kids tried to talk to the aunts (since neither one could hear well) the kids got no response to questions, and my 3.5 year old would say things such as “I smell poopy.” Nice. I figured if the aunts heard her they would think she was talking about her brother.

I also learned a lesson. The lesson is that I need to keep in touch with my great aunts. I need to send them pictures, little hello notes, or other things in the mail they can hang on their fridge. They seemed lonely and that is no good. I know also learned that my kids can handle themselves respectfully, and that is good.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Kristin’s alter ego is cBus Mom. Follow her on twitter or read her blogs: cBus Mom or Glass of Whine.