Zoë appearing in a dinner theatre murder mystery as the unforgettable "Palmela Handsarefun"

Zoë appearing in a dinner theatre murder mystery as the unforgettable “Palmela Handsarefun”

Usually, I dread roadtrips. The driving I like. It’s the socializing at the other end that scares me.

Even though I love the people I’m visiting and cherish our visits, after 46 years of undiagnosed social faux pas, there’s still a little hangover of residual worry about what might happen.

I’m getting better at social occasions; but the pain of social ineptitude is not completely forgotten. Besides, it’s Christmastime. I’d much rather be stuffing my face with my sister’s shortbread than my own mouth.

In spite of this, while preparing for my three-hour trek I realized that I was not fearful at all. I was supremely charged.

Then I realized why: her kids.

ADHD baggage

Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister. I like her a lot too.

Still, my sister and I have a history. Being sisters with someone like me was not easy, and sometimes, although much has changed, that history is palpable.

On the other hand, my history with her kids is more recent and baggage-free. To them, I’m the nutty Aunt. And that’s just the way I like it.

Just me being me

With my sister’s kids, I never have to worry about being different. I can be myself and know that not only do they accept me, they get a kick out of me as much as I get a kick out of them.

When crazy Aunt Zoë visits, my niece and nephew might be gifted with hand-made drums – and a lesson followed by a jam session.

This year, I’ll take my electric bass and play along to a song or two on my iPod.

In past years, they’ve gotten to watch their aunt on television, listen to stories about what it’s like to run in a political race, or work on an animal rescue farm, all experiences unique to our family but par-for-the-course for an ADHD woman with a multitude of passions.

Learning from each other

Not having kids of my own, I look forward to learning as much from them as they learn from me. It’s a mutual show-and-tell, as I share my world, and get a glimpse into theirs.

I’ll ask penetrating questions about school, their friends, their relationships. And they’ll know I’m keenly interested in their answers.

I’ll get excited about what they’re doing, and challenge them every chance I get: to get outside their comfort zone, push the envelope intellectually, creatively, and socially, and to believe in themselves and know that I do too.

We’ll laugh together, get to know each other better. I might even shock them a time or two (especially when mom is out of earshot), but it will be age-appropriate and geared to sharing values, interests and ideas from someone who isn’t a parent (a distinct advantage sometimes).

I’ll talk about going to India, and share my fears and dreams (some of that age-appropriate yet shocking conversation, geared to subtly imbue them with knowledge of the wider world and its challenges); I’ll ask for their opinions and insights about the world; it’ll be cool.

Although the kids never know what to expect from Aunt Zoë, whatever it is, they know it will be shared with love and respect. And they’ll learn that being different can be downright fun.


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