Today, while reading Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins on the tram ride home from work, I came across the following passage:

"In this queer world of ours, fatherly and motherly hearts often beat warm and wise in the breasts of bachelor uncles and maiden aunts; and it is my private opinion that these worthy creatures are a beautiful provision of nature for the cherishing of other people's children.  They certainly get great comfort out of it, and receive much innocent affection that otherwise would be lost."

As an aunt of 11 years, I find this to be quite true.  I love being an aunt and I remember vividly many moments in which a particular niece or nephew's presence, word, or deed has brightened my day.  Most vivid is perhaps the memory of running to play with my niece Kaitlyn after receiving the news of my brother's death.

While living in a foreign country, you are thrust out of your home community.  Many people think of building new friends and don't think on the impossibility of building new family members.  I think it is the latter void that can be more difficult to manage, because it is multigenerational.  Depending on your profession, it's quite easy to run into people of your age group, but befriending older or younger generations can be more difficult.  In college I managed this through joining a multi-generational Bible study and adopting the children of friends at church.  I have gained some friendship/interaction with the older generations through church attendance here (like my "conversation partner"), yet I typically only saw kids from a distance.

Last year, in June, I finally found some young friends, the children of my colleague Marie.  She invited me to go on some excursion with her children nearby, and I ended up spending the day, night, and following morning with her and her two young girls.  It took a little while for them to warm up to me.  But after speaking some Czech, giving a shoulder ride, and holding hands while walking, our friendship was sealed.

When we got back to my friend's house, an afternoon in the garden ensued with jaunts in the pool, on the trampoline, and in the hammock.  Once we retired inside, the girls listened past my accent as  I read to them from their Czech My Little Pony book.  Then began the marathon of drawing pictures of ponies and princesses for them to colour.  This eventually evolved into them watching me colour.  I think at one point Majka asked me if I was annoyed with the children's chatter and energy, but I was absolutely in my element.  A few weeks ago, I got to reunite with the kids and meet Majka's third daughter (who was away at camp during the last excursion).  It proved refreshing, to say the least.

This school year, however, is a bit different than last because I have the joy of teaching at both a secondary and a primary school.  So, during the week I see kids from age 6-16.  Usually I leave my high school office with an "off to see the little children!"  Though sometimes trying, I'm thankful for the opportunity to "cherish other people's children."  I certainly do get "great comfort out of it."  So, Majka and all the parents of my students, thank you.


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