The cool uncle

My brother, with two brothers

For all the joys of being a father, it’s a shame I’m unlikely to experience what it’s like to be an uncle. It looks kinda fun.

Our kids are fortunate enough to see their paternal grandparents, who they adore, on a regular basis (typically 2-3 weekends a month). But nothing quite matches the excitement of those less frequent occasions when their favourite (okay, only) uncle comes to stay.

Just hanging around with their favourite uncle
Just hanging around with their favourite uncle

By virtue of being not-Dad, Uncle Pete is immediately conferred a ‘cool’ status which they will never associate with me. That’s not a problem. They don’t see him as often as they do my parents (maybe five or six times a year), so when they do it’s understandable that they immediately flock to him. He can do no wrong in their eyes. He usually comes bearing presents and a willingness to do even the most mundane activities with them with an easy smile, safe in the knowledge that he can hand them back to us at the end of the day/weekend.

That’s not intended with any hint of bitterness. On the contrary, even a couple of hours’ respite while he takes them out on their bikes or plays snakes and ladders is a welcome relief in itself. All three of them are comfortable around him. And it’s also great to see how comfortable he now is with the boys in particular who, at six and four, are now able to interact with him on a much higher level than when they were littler and there were inconveniences such as nappy changes to worry about.

It’s lovely to see how good he is with them, and hopefully he will always be a significant part of their lives even when they grow up.

Watching him with the kids has also made me realise that this is something I never really had as a child. I have no uncles and aunts in the UK. They’re all in Malaysia, meaning I’ve gone through life only ever seeing them for a few days every four or five years. So, other than my parents, I never had that extended adult figure in my life that my children now have. It’s not something that ever mattered to me at the time – you can’t miss what you never realised you never had – but I’m glad the kids benefit from having an uncle they get to see on a semi-regular basis, even if it is just the one.

With just the one sibling between Heather and I, and my brother remaining resolutely single, I’ll probably never experience having nephews and nieces of my own. Which is a shame. I’ll never get to be the cool uncle myself. Even so, settling for being an uncool dad isn’t bad.