My excellent sister-in-law and I have a "merry war betwixt us." We shamelessly vie for the love and affection of our shared nieces and nephews and for the coveted title of "Favorite Aunt." Most of our (my) strategy involves shameless bribery and endless brainwashing. These are young, impressionable children. It only takes a couple of days of quality time to convince them that I am the FUNNEST AUNT EVER and if they vote for me, I will shower them with gifts and love. My visits with them involve a lot of this action:
Me: Niece or nephew, who is your favorite aunt?
N or N: Shauna.
Me: WRONG! I mean, have a cookie, dear. Now who is your favorite aunt?
N or N: You are!
Me: That's right. Aunt Shauna only pretends to like you. I love you a lot and that's why I'm going to spend hours and hours playing your favorite mind-numbing video game with you.
Aunt Shauna has an unfair advantage. She's known these kids since they were born. She's had much more time to bond with them. Plus, she lives close to four of them and gets to do fun things with them ALL THE TIME. I've had to make up a whole lifetime in the seven years I've known them.
But I chip away at her wall of invincibility whenever I can.
A couple of years ago, Brett and I visited the three nieces that live in Virginia. This was more neutral ground. Both Shauna and I can only visit infrequently, so I figured this would be the best time for my special brand of brainwashing, uh, love.
The nieces and I had a great time. We read stories, played video games, took trips, and even baked a cake together. We were solid. When I asked, "Who's your favorite aunt?" The girls would cry with unbridled enthusiasm, "You are!" It was a major coup.
We had to leave very early to catch our flight on the last day. I snuck upstairs to kiss the girls goodbye. Sydney slept soundly as I kissed her cheek and stroked her hair. Savannah woke up a little bit, wrapped her arms around my neck, and put her soft cheek against mine.
"Goodbye, sweet girl." I whispered. "I love you and I'll miss you very much."
"Mmmm..." Savannah replied sleepily. I tiptoed from the room.
"Aunt Andrea?" I heard her little voice call a moment later as I crept down the stairs.
"Yes, honey?" I replied expectantly.
"When you get home, make sure you tell Aunt Shauna I love her."