Sunday, July 26, is the seventh annual Auntie's Day, the day I founded in 2009 to celebrate and honor aunts by relation, aunts by choice to friends' children, godmothers, and all women who play an active role in the life of a child not-their-own. I established the day because it's time that all the women in the "American Family Village" are acknowledged for their selfless giving to the children in their lives. An aunt is there to provide "QualAuntie Time" and experiences as a loving caregiver and "ConfidAunt" to her nieces and nephews from the day they are born and as they grow up. Many women without children of their own also give tirelessly to children all over the world. These "BenevolAunts" are due their day to be honored.
And every aunt knows how fortunate we are to have the love of our nieces and nephews. And we are grateful to their parents, who have given us the gift of aunthood. And so, Auntie's Day is also a time for us to appreciate all really good things that aunthood brings:
1. When a newborn niece or nephew holds our finger with her or his tiny fingers for the first time, and we can't help but whisper: "I will love you forever."
2. The first time a niece or nephew says "Auntie" (or something that sounds remotely like "Auntie," or the name they will use to refer to us from then on), we know we are bonded forever.
3. The day we scream uncontrollably: "He's walking! He's walking! My nephew is walking!"
4. The nicknames we give them that are some combination of their proper name and the sound a heart makes when it's exploding with joy.
5. Hearing: "Higher, Auntie! Push me higher!" from a little kid voice on a big kid swing.
6. And hearing sweet little voices over the phone singing the same holiday songs we sang when we were kids.
7. When you visit and children come running to greet you with hugs and kisses and things to show and tell you.
8. We make up silly songs and sing them together over and over again, and again and again, each time we visit.
9. Bath time with baby! And all the delicious snuggles as we wrap them securely in their towel.
10. The way they nuzzle their little head into our chest as we read to them.
11. There are many more unicorns and sparkly rainbows in these children's worlds than in our own.
12. We get to do the things with them we never did as kids -- or always did as kids. Either way, it's much more fun to do it with them.
13. There is always a niece who wants to play with our hair.
14. There are children with whom to share our love of Hello Kitty, Snoopy, and Judy Blume.
15. We always have Thanksgiving Day plans.
16. Baking Grandma or Great-Auntie's famous cookies together so they can taste the sweet love handed down from generation to generation.
17. Kissing a "boo boo" and realizing it really does make them feel better.
18. Getting dressed up all fancy to have fancy grown-up lunch at a fancy restaurant for the very first time. Or, maybe, they invite Auntie to a fancy tea party at home with a magical teapot that never runs out of tea and Play-Doh cookies they "baked" just for you in the play kitchen you gave them last holiday season.
19. With each niece or nephew born, our hearts keep growing bigger and bigger.
20. The children's questions about life make us wonder about how many more brilliant questions are to come, and about all the many questions we've never even thought to ask.
21. The look on their faces when they open their gifts!
22. When a child gently slips their little hand in yours.
23. And then, when they ask if they can still hold your hand "even when they're a teenager."
24. When we're invited to see their ballet recitals, skating competitions, hockey games, soccer matches, science expos, and graduations -- and they have no idea it means more to us to be there than it means to them.
25. Seeing them enjoy the purses, jewelry, and other things we've saved for just the time when they're old enough to appreciate them.
26. When they refer to their family, and they include their aunt.
27. Because they have as much fun celebrating our birthdays as they do each other's.
28. The day when we realize we no longer have to consider letting them win the game.
29. Our fridge door always has colorful drawings all over it, and the word "love" is on each work of art.
30. We get to dance in the living room together like nobody's watching.
31. Giggling is catchy.
32. They don't have to love us, and yet, they do.
33. It's always appropriate to skip down the street when you are with children.
34. Teaching them how to use chopsticks. And telling them that eating sushi with your fingers is also OK.
35. Home run! Goal! Touchdown! Arabesque!
36. When they ask that Auntie be the one to put them to bed.
37. When they are shy with a new visitor, and hide behind Auntie for safety.
38. Receiving a gift from a child who put his or her full heart into wanting to give you something special.
39. Some of the bits of knowledge and experience we've gathered over the years are actually useful to them.
40. Those special days, set aside just for the two of you.
41. Knowing a child or teen trusts you and your judgment enough to confide in you or ask for your advice.
42. Those smiles. Oh, those smiles. And when those smiles are directed toward Auntie, they are the best smiles of all.
43. Ice cream! Waffle cones! Colorful sprinkles!
44. No matter how often we see our nieces and nephews, or how not-often-enough we see them, they love us just the same.
45. Years later, they tell us about an experience we shared when they were really little, an experience we had long forgotten, and we realize we've have a much stronger influence on their happiness and well-being than we knew.
46. Even for those of us without children of our own, we are forever part of a beautiful family. Their family. Our family.
47. We're not their mother, and we're not their friend; we're their aunt, the perfect blend.
Happy Auntie's Day, on Sunday, July 26, to all the aunts who give so much to the children you love. Aunthood is a gift. This day is yours.
To learn more about Auntie's Day, and for digital posters and ecards to post and share, visit SavvyAuntie.com. Follow @SavvyAuntie on Twitter and Instagram and use #AuntiesDay to share your celebrations and stories on Sunday, July 26!
Savvy Aunties are welcome to join the Auntourage on Facebook.
Melanie Notkin is the national bestselling author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/HarperCollins).
Melanie Notkin's second book, OTHERHOOD: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness (Seal Press/Penguin Canada), is available now. OTHERHOOD received a prestigious *starred review* by Booklist.