Our Brother’s Children


familyI satisfy my craving to know what our children might have been like during extended visits with my two nieces and two nephews. We have a set on either side of the family. Our connections are through our older brothers.

I have a particularly close connection with my brother’s lovely 10-year-old daughter and rambunctious eight-year-old son. I’ve known my niece, literally, since the day she niece was born.  I recall as if it were yesterday walking into the hospital room and seeing my sister-in-law (SIL) and brother with their heads pressed together looking down with wonder at who they had created. My brother, who was 35 at the time, told my mother, “If I had known I could love so deeply I would have had children sooner.” That sums up the intensity of his introduction to fatherhood.

Since then I’ve watched with my own wonder at how it’s changed him in all sorts of sweet ways. Seeing he and my SIL cuddled up on the sofa the other evening with their children snuggled up next to them in their pajamas was a particularly tender sight. They could not have looked more content.

I love the opportunity to greet the little ones in the early morning hours while their parents get a few extra minutes to relax in bed. Walking into the kitchen with sleepy eyes and pillow tossed hair they automatically offer up warm hugs. As they tuck into their pancakes I see little reminders of my brother and me when we were their age. Funny enough, among other family traits, we all share the same eyebrows.

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On my husband’s side, it’s our seven-year-old niece who runs the show. She has more moxie than most politicians or celebrities. Our 11-year-old nephew is quieter and more introspective. I see their family resemblance in one of another unusual ways. They each walk with an identical ambling gait. It’s as though they’re walking in formation.

There’s more to family than mannerisms, certainly, but observing them does give me a glimpse into what our children might have looked like. Our nieces and nephews have only recently, independently, realized that their aunt and uncle aren’t like other adult couples they know. In weirdly inappropriate timing, my ever curious nephew not long ago grabbed the floor during a family dinner and matter of factly wanted to know, “why, Aunt Pam, don’t you have your own kids?”

The question was painful and innocent at the same time.

I recall panicking so the words I used are clouded by the drama playing out in my mind, but I said something like, “we get to share you and your sister instead.”

Distracted by whether there were more mashed potatoes available he was satisfied at the moment with the answer.

They might not understand all of the medical somersaults and other more strenuous gymnastics we went through to try to give them cousins, but they do know when they visit with us that we’re delighted to hear about and celebrate their accomplishments, that we’re a soft touch for an extra cookie, and that there’s no such a thing as one too many games of cards or 20 questions to play.

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8 Responses

  1. Bea

    July 5, 2007 6:31 am

    Excellent answer. But you’re right – from the mouths of babes, eh? Hopefully your niece and nephew will grow up knowing not to take fertility for granted. That would be nice.


  2. Irish Girl

    July 5, 2007 12:18 pm


    Ouch, right? The last time I visited my out-of-state sister and her kids her son asked me, “Aunt IG, when are YOU going to have a baby?” He has always been the special one … the one I have the deepest connection with. And so this question coming from him and his little five year old mind made me want to weep. But I think I said, “I don’t know, B” and we kept on playing hide and seek. It was all I could muster.

    Collateral Damage, indeed.

  3. Ellen K

    July 5, 2007 1:00 pm

    I’ve often wondered what D.’s sisters have told their older children about our childlessness. D.’s oldest sister’s kids are now 10 and 7, and about 3 years ago they were “baby crazy.” D’s sister said “Perhaps Uncle D. and Aunt Ellen will have a baby.” I hope they’ve forgotten about that. As it happened, a year later they had another cousin via D.’s other sister. I see how great the kids are with that baby, and I feel “too little, too late.”

  4. JJ

    July 5, 2007 2:50 pm

    Stung a little I’m sure….
    That is very special that you have that relationship with both kids.  I’m sure they love ya a whole lot!!=)

  5. Schatzi

    July 5, 2007 4:01 pm

    Sounds like you have fab nieces and nephews. What a blessing.

    As for the questions… the two times I have been asked were both just after BFNs and I stumbled for words to say. Luckily their mothers stepped in for me…

  6. Ann

    July 5, 2007 7:04 pm

    I wonder at what point is it appropriate to educate children about infertility? I know that I view the childless couples I know with completely different eyes once I find out they struggled with IF. Do you think that in a few years you might be willing to talk about it with them, in a gentle way, of course?

  7. lady macleod

    July 6, 2007 12:07 am

    What a brilliant aunt! I can only imagine how thrilled not only your nieces and nephews are to see you coming, but their parents as well. Someone who loves our children as much as we do are RARE AND PRECIOUS.

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