6 Classic Movie Tips on How to Be the Best Aunt or Uncle
With a new addition to Java's extended family, a new crop of aunts and uncles are made. Since yours truly is becoming a veteran in this field (Where has the time gone?), I would like to share a bit of advice with the newbies and explain how the principles of being an aunt or uncle are exemplified in classic films.
1. Be Excited!
With the first wail of the baby in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Gideon murmurs, "I'm an uncle," and faints dead away.
You don't have to pass out or anything, but being an uncle or aunt is exciting. You are almost like mom or dad (But with the advantage of returning the kids to their parents when you're done babysitting ) and you are a different version of grandma or grandpa (which means you're up for any crazy thing). You are that perfect blend of authority figure, modernity and screwy fun to them. Celebrate it!
2. Get Your Bluff in Early Because a Tantrum is Not Cute (Especially after they learn to speak)
An aunt who exemplifies the opposite of this principle is Monica Breedlove in The Bad Seed (1956).
"Aunt" Monica, the next door neighbor, spoils young Rhoda with trinkets, dessert and anything else to the point where the girl feels entitled to have these treats. The little one throws a tantrum if she cannot get her way. This lack of discipline only exacerbates the girl's innate greed and leads to crime.
I'm not saying that if you give the kid an extra ice cream bar, she'll murder the gardener in the basement (as Rhoda does); just don't do anything the parents will have to undo. You are there to help raise a responsible adult; you're not there show how awesome you are (even though you are pretty cool).
3. Learn from Your Nieces and Nephews
Whether your nieces and nephews are young tykes or full-fledged adults with their own families, you might still think of them as babies. That's ok. We can learn from "babies" as well.
In Pollyanna (1960), Aunt Polly runs the town with an iron fist, a lack of compassion and a sour disposition. With the introduction of her orphaned niece, who has plenty to be depressed about but instead sees the positive in everything, the whole town gets a facelift. They begin to appreciate life, aid their fellow man/woman, and most of them even smile. Ultimately, when Pollyanna needs help they are now prepared to assist.
4. Support the Parents; Gently Offer Observations (When Appropriate)
Mrs. Almond, one of the title character's aunts in The Heiress (1949), quietly reminds her brother not to compare his daughter unfavorably with his late wife. "She cannot compete with this image you have of her mother," she warns. I love this scene because the brother and sister are being both frank and gentle. From then on, however, other characters withhold vital information, become unbearably cruel, and spin webs of deception, which makes everyone miserable.
Near the end of the movie, years later, when the heiress' life has not gone as planned, Mrs. Almond still visits her niece and continually extends invitations to her own house. At this point, the aunt could rub her prescience in everyone's face and leave her brother's daughter to rot, but she doesn't. Give this woman a medal for her wisdom and compassion.
5. When Nephews and Nieces Are Older, Be There To Listen and Humbly Share Advice
This is an extension of # 4 above.
Develop a relationship with the ankle biters when they are younger; it's easier for them to trust you when they are older. That ease will lead them to talk to you and trust your opinion when mulling over a problem.
Uncle Beemish in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) is a listening ear for his adult niece, Margaret, who is raising her rambunctious younger sister. He doesn't demand anything, he calmly makes suggestions and leaves them for Margaret to contemplate and make her own decisions.Wonderful.
Another example: Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!(1955).
6. Savor the Moments
In The Searchers (1956), Uncle Ethan spends time with his brother's family - time that will be short-lived due to a massacre. From then on, Ethan becomes a nasty and vengeful man on the hunt for his one surviving niece who is abducted. One minute you're here, the next it's all over.
My own Uncle LSP (that man of mystery we've discussed before) said to me on occasion, "Enjoy this time now, kid. Pretty soon you'll be an adult with bills." Frankly, as great as childhood was, I wouldn't turn back the clock for anything. Still, I know what he meant - savor your moments. Perhaps he was savoring a moment with his niece when he said it.
Do you have any tips for aunts and uncles? Share one, with or without a movie reference.