I love being an uncle. This may come as a surprise to some readers, but as long as I don’t have to feed, clothe or—Christ forefend—cohabitate with them, I get along with kids famously.
One reason is because I don’t have any kids of my own. I’m not a parent and, therefore, don’t issue many of those annoying, parental-type demands, such as “Don’t say this” or “Don’t drink that.” I have only one rule: No secreting! Keep your disease-addled puddles of snot, spit, poop or pee away from me and my belongings. Other than that, it’s an open game. You want to run with scissors? Absolutely! Just keep them pointed inward. Feel like another Red Bull? Sure! Will that be with or without vodka?
Yes, I’m a fantastic uncle. It just comes naturally. However, there are many who struggle with the role. No worries, because today, I’m going to share my Theories on Uncle-ing—you’ll want to pay attention.
Play Games: Playing games with your nieces and nephews is what uncle-ing is all about. My favorite is the classic Hot and Cold Game. It’s great because you can sit on your ass and watch football while engaging the kid at the same time. It’s especially fun with River, my 5-year-old nephew. This is because River is a dumbass. It takes him forever to find the object. He’ll start walking in the wrong direction and I’ll say “colder, colder,” and he’ll keep going in the wrong direction. So, I’ll keep saying, “Colder, colder, you’re getting much colder,” and still he heads toward the arctic hinterland that is the place where the thing is not hidden.
The last time we played, it got so ridiculous that I yelled, “You’re frickin’ freezing, kid! Even the polar bears are telling you to turn around,” at which point River finally stopped in his tracks. You could see his brain working then. Suddenly, his eyes flashed a spark of enlightenment, as if to say, “Yes, yes, it’s all clear to me now.” Then, with his newfound understanding of Hot and Cold Game, River lurched back into action, moving—in the same, wrong direction!
Feign Interest: A good uncle will pretend to be interested in all the mundane crap kids talk about. Indeed, one of the hardest parts about being an uncle is having to repeatedly respond, “Wow!” and “Really?!” to the child’s excruciating stories of utter white-noise nothingness, such as the one about the stick and the ladybug Joey told me when he was 7.
“Uncle Ed, um, guess what? Yesterday, I found a stick, and it was a brown stick, and it had a, um, ladybug crawling on it. Then the ladybug crawled down the stick, then on my arm, and then, um—Uncle Ed? Why are jamming a butter knife into your ear?”
“Only to hear you better, child. Only to hear you better.”
What you should do in this situation is alleviate the brain-blistering boredom by entertaining yourself with a little harmless emotional torture.
“You need to be careful, Joey. Ladybugs can paralyze you with their venom and lay eggs in your eyeballs. Next time you see one, it’s best to run away screaming, ‘Ladybug’s gonna get me! Ladybug’s gonna get me! Acck, acck, acck!’ as loud as you can.”
Kick their Asses in Games: Letting kids win does not encourage them to improve and will not prepare them for the series of heartbreaking losses that life will undoubtedly shower upon them as adults. In a country that teaches its youth that “everyone’s a winner,” I feel it necessary to counter the lie with truth. Not only do I never let them win, but I destroy them, violently. In chess, I slash through their pathetic defense and toss their pieces aside with disgust. If we’re playing Call of Duty, I sneak up from behind, put the shotgun to the backs of their skulls and wait until they turn around—so they can see the muzzle-flash—before pulling the trigger. Whatever the game, I crush them as quickly and as brutally as possible. Afterward, I dance on their graves. Like, a few days ago, when I beat young Noah in Connect 4 and told him, “Don’t let it get you down, kid. It’s not your fault you’re mother huffed nail polish when she was pregnant.”
Myth Busting: Parents will likely disagree but I feel after an appropriate age, it’s the uncle’s job to dispel such myths as the Santa fantasy, the Tooth Fairy conspiracy and the God / Christ fables. This past Easter, on the phone, I asked Little Michael (11) what the Easter Bunny brought him.
“A basket of chocolate,” he answered.
“Trick question!” I shouted into the phone. “There is no such thing as an Easter Bunny! Forget about the logistical impossibility of the story—just ask yourself, why would a giant, intelligent, upright-walking, opposable thumb-having, magical super-bunny take a low-paying delivery job instead of getting his own lucrative reality show? Think, boy, think!”
Inappropriate Language: It is my belief that not only should we use profanity in the presence of children, but that we should actually teach it to them. A child needs to have an arsenal of curse words to maintain his or her playground cred. It’s also another way to entertain yourself because you can get them in trouble with their parents. For instance, one time, when my sister was in the kitchen cooking pasta, I’ll called her son James over and whispered, “Go tell your mom you think she should rename her ravioli ‘shittyoli.’” Then I disappeared before the fireworks ensued. Last Christmas, I told her other son, Michael, “Here’s 20 bucks for you to rent a crack whore.”
“What’s a crack whore, Uncle Ed?”
“Go ask your mother,” I said and slipped out the side door, beaming with pride over another successful bonding moment.
Originally published in San Diego CityBeat
Tags: the good uncle