“Say good morning to Auntie!”
“Look! Here’s Uncle!”
“Do you want to give Auntie a hug?”
There is a method to my madness. I’m not calling all of these people “Auntie” or “Uncle” out of courtesy, or an attempt to confuse the poor kid. It’s a setup for a lesson later in life.
I remember years ago asking a friend why she had her kids call everyone Auntie or Uncle even though they weren’t related. For her it was a cultural practice, as a sign of respect for elders or for a sense of community among good friends. I thought it was charming, and still cherish it every time one of her kids calls me Auntie. It makes me feel like an important part of their family.
I suppose there’s a part of me that wanted to adopt that practice for that reason alone, but once I started introducing people to my son, I noticed something significant. I only referred to people I trusted as Auntie or Uncle. Everyone else I simply called by their first name. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I noticed it.
My son comes from a tough background, and has been moved quite a lot in his very short time on this earth. I’m not his first home, nor his second. I’m not even the third. He has a hard time with the concept of “stranger danger”, and though it isn’t much of an issue NOW (aside from hugging random strangers in restaurants) – I have concerns about teaching him how to discriminate in the future. I realized my natural reservations might come in handy one day.
Someday in the future, not so very far from now. I will be able to use those words as a tool to help him remember. I will be able to say “Anyone I have asked you to call Auntie or Uncle – those are the people you can trust. Those are the people you may accept food or candy from. Those are the people you may go with if they ask to take you somewhere. Those are the people you may hug or hold hands with. Have I called that man Uncle? Is that man your teacher? No? Then you need to ask me first.”
Please know that if I have called you Auntie or Uncle it is so much more than a courtesy. It means I trust you. No, it means much more than that. It means I trust you with my son. And that means quite a lot.