It takes a village…Or does it?

by third planet living

Okay, time to address the sensitive subject of raising other people’s children.  For those of you who don’t know me, here are some facts:

I do not have children.

I do have five nieces and one nephew (all under the age of seven) and all of whom I have cohabitated with at sometime or another, and for various reasons including but not limited to:

*Their parents splitting up

*My sister removing her kids from an environment she didn’t have control over; one that was physically unsafe (small finger in mousetrap, mothball consumed, grandparent’s pills left within reach, insulin syringes left within reach, etc.)

*The home environment being emotionally unsafe (great-grandparent yelling in the face of a four year old child that she is the reason everyone in the household is fighting, little girls being told they look like hoochies when they dance a certain way, put on make-up, wear their mommies bras, etc.)

Talk about maddening.  To be over the moon for these kids, and 100% emotionally invested in them and their wellbeing and yet, having no control over what they are experiencing daily.

What’s an auntie to do?  Say my piece, that’s what.

I don’t hold back from telling my sisters when they’re allowing themselves and their kids to remain in harmful situations, (not that they always listen to me).

I try my best to un-do any damage caused by insensitive elders saying mean hateful things to little open hearts.

I cut off the sugar and pass out glasses of water when a gaggle of whiney partygoers start acting the fool post cake/ice cream/piñata/party bags.

I treat these kids as if they are my own, which means, that on top of all of the love and fun times we have, I correct their behavior when they’re acting like a-holes, whether their parents are in the room or not.  And what’s great is that my sisters want me to.  They don’t get bent when I put one of their kids on time out, or confiscate the stick they’ve been stabbing each other with, or reprimand them for talking back to their mommies. 

It gives my sisters a break.  They benefit from knowing an extra pair of eyes are on their kids, and from having another adult voice supporting the rules that they’ve established.

These kids are my family, and I feel like it’s my job to protect them physically and emotionally.  Of course, when differences of opinion arise, the word from their parentals trumps anything I have to say.  That’s the deal.  And it seems to work for us.

With all of that being said, I do wish I could be the all-fun-all-the-time auntie with a purse full of gum, and an anything goes attitude.  And my day may come.  But for now, I’m too close, and to deeply involved in the day-to-day (I currently live with 4 of the 6). 

Now, I know that many people out there have something to say about this.  Many people disagree with me, and feel it should be the sole right/responsibility of the parent(s) in seeing to how their children are raised.

So my question is this… where is the line drawn?  Should other people be allowed to step in only when kids are in danger of physical harm (i.e. walking with key towards light-socket)?  Even then?  Is it okay with family, but not with anyone else?  When does the village step in, and when does it stay the hell back?