The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Happy 21st Birthday Nephew #1

on April 9, 2014

As I said to Big Brother Li last week that he seems too young to have a 21 year old son, I realised it meant I have a 21 year old nephew. How exciting! All these years he’s been allowed a legal pint and I’ve been far away here in Singapore.

Though can you just imagine it? Having to take your Aunt out on the lash? Especially one that may not last beyond a second pint. Barely worth thinking about. I imagine he’s cringing at the thought. Should I even suggest we have a joint belated 21st and 40th Birthday party celebration when I’m back in the UK?

Nephew #1 is now well onto his way to being an independent grown up. I’ve been preparing myself for this transition for some years. I think it’s easier for an Aunt, perhaps even more so for Uncles, to see that the young child they once were is now a young adult. I think parents will always have a delayed reaction in this area, in some cases like my Dad Mr Li, I don’t think it ever happens.

My long overdue visit to Hong Kong in 2001 was a trip that brought together many family ties and opened up new ones. When a nephew or niece is born, you may not see straightaway that a new generation has arrived, just the expansion of your family in this tiny, cute baby. One that you can indulge with far fewer boundaries than with your own children. But soon enough, you realise that you want all the best things and all the greatest opportunities. To give them happy family experiences too and to be that Special Aunt who they see as another person cheering them on.

As an eight year old, he was already quite the independent child and articulate beyond his years. There’s something about my two nephews in their knowledge of current affairs that sometimes exceeds my own. I think it’s because their parents have been very matter of fact about the world around them. When they were very young and telling me about something that was happening in the news, they reminded of Stuey in Family Guy.

In addition, my Cantonese Chinese is not brilliant, much better than my Dad Mr Li’s but not as good as I would like. I’m out of practice these days too. In a Chinese language debate with my nephews I am going to fall flat every time. This requires a lot of patience on my nephew’s side waiting for me to find the words I want to say and explaining to me very slowly what he’s just said. All without getting exasperated like many adults would.

Of course I would have liked to have been around from when he was born and enjoy watching him grow from chubby baby to toddler to talking, walking small child. To have built that bond from the start like I have been able to with my Nearly Nieces and Nephews.

However, in many ways it was easier to connect with an eight year old him than say a three year old one that would have required a few days of settling in and then perhaps he may have been comfortable enough to spend an hour or so with me away from his parents. With an eight year old, you can start straightaway with forming a bond as you find out what they enjoy doing and enjoy their company. If you are relaxed with them, they are very willing to give you a chance. I guess it’s about not trying too hard to win their approval and just let things happen naturally.

I wonder whether he realises that he has one of the brightest smiles I know. From being a child, there’s hardly a photograph of him looking sullen and every one with a smile is one that is genuine and full of warmth. It’s a quality that not all people have.

In much the same vein as Strawberry Mousse at the age of six, declared her favourite food was lobster. When the class teacher asked this question, more than likely they were expecting answers like spaghetti, fish fingers or raw carrot sticks. Nephew #1 also has a liking for fine food when he said he would like to go and eat steak the first time we went out for dinner on our own. I very much doubt that #1 will have such a discerning palate in a mere two years time.


To think that was 13 years ago.

Nana Moon and I took him to Legoland when he was 11 and I have one of those fridge magnet photos of us on the drop of the water ride. I can see the look on his face very similar to how I feel on any ride. Must run in the family.

When I was last in the UK, he was very helpful with his cousins and those relationships can only grow deeper. I think he’ll find them all highly amusing. It’s with his help that my Dad Mr Li has been able to see #1, 2 and 3 on Skype lately. It eases my guilt of living this far away a little and it’s good for the children to be able to see family. To connect a name to a face that they can see.

So now he’s 21.

A young adult about to embark on what life has to bring and I’m looking forward to seeing him develop his career, his interests and being a part of it too. I’m looking forward to hearing his opinions on things and see his adult character form. I’m sure he has a good idea of what he wants to do and who he wants to be but I think it’s also good to know there’s always someone besides your parents, who want you to be the best version of you that you can be.

I have some answers and experience to offer guidance to some questions and choices that stand before him and I hope I can contribute something useful in that way.

But the main difference between then and now is that he is on his way to being an independent grown up and as much as I have strong and vivid memories of the young boy he was, I’m very much looking forward to spending time with the young adult he is becoming.



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