My 13-year-old niece thinks I’m pretty cool. In fact, she’s gone as far as to give me the nick name “Aunt Awesome.” She looks up to me; she idolizes me; she wants to be like me when she grows up. It’s pretty cool, really.
But that reverence and affection can change in an instant.
You see, she’s come to my neck of the woods to attend a residential academic summer camp for “highly capable students” at the university where I work. For a week, she will live in a dorm and attend classes taught by the school’s research professors. This is the first time she’s attended an overnight camp without a companion. This is her first time really getting out on her own.
So, we arrive on campus and get the kid checked in. Then I take her to her room and her roommate is already there with her parents. (This is her roommate’s second year, so there’s someone to teach her to ropes.)
I asked if she wanted help unpacking. No.
I asked if she wanted me to stick around for the opening ceremonies. No.
I asked if she wanted me to leave. Yes. (Without a hug, please.)
I went from “Aunt Awesome” to “Aunt Please Don’t Address Me in Public” in less than five minutes. And now I know how my parents must have felt over and over and over again.
I’m sure the brat will love me again once I pick her up on Friday and we are an acceptable distance from her new friends’ view.
Thankfully, her 11-year-old brother, who is staying with me whilst attending a day camp this week, still thinks I’m cool. Of course, that may change when I drop him off at camp tomorrow morning…