Aunties Are For Life

It’s been a rainy, grey day in London, but my afternoon got brighter when my three-year old niece Bean popped in with King Russell for a quick play in the garden on the way home from nursery.

Because her mum’s a hospital doctor and I’m in the shielding group when it comes to COVID 19, we’ve had to be careful about how much we see each other. Bean hasn’t been inside the castle since March, and for a long time she didn’t even come into the garden. This was the aspect of Lockdown I found most difficult, especially because they all live just across the road.

A digital drawing with a dark blue deep space background scattered with colourful stars of different sizes at the centre is a star with a drawing of a small child - Bean and from this are colourful lines connecting to other stars that include Touretteshero, Grandparents and cousins. This drawing is a way of explaining family connections to three-year old Bean.

Back in July when infection rates were lower, we relaxed a bit and garden play resumed, much to my delight! Erik set up a gazebo in my garden, mainly so we had some shade from the sun, but now autumn’s kicking in it’s coming into its own as a place where I can safely hang out with friends and stay dry. As Bean put it this afternoon, “It’s good we’re under our shelter so the rain can’t get us.”

Because infection rates are going up again Fat Sister and I have been talking about when they’ll need to stop coming round. We’re not quite at that point yet but we agreed we needed to start being more careful again. When I reminded Bean that we’d need to stay distant from each other, she stopped in her tracks, looked up at me and asked, “Will you still be my aunty?”

Bean’s question caught me off guard, but I was quick to reassure her that I’d always be her aunty and that I loved her however much space there was between us. This fragment of conversation wrenched at my heart because it’s a glimpse into the extra worries that many children will be facing during this pandemic.

I’m not worried about Bean. She’s got lots of support and opportunities to talk through what’s happening, in an age-appropriate way. But I wish we didn’t have to have these conversations and could concentrate all our energy on the very serious business of playing.

As new restrictions and lockdowns loom, I’m prioritising being with Bean as much as possible, making the most of the time we spend together.

Maybe there’s something positive coming out of COVID – I can’t imagine ever taking time with my family for granted again.

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