Things I, Your Childless Sister, Will Gladly Teach Your Kids If You Don’t Want To

Aunt in Training

Things I, Your Childless Sister, Will Gladly Teach Your Kids If You Don’t Want To

The birds, the bees and what to say when a Zipcar cuts you off: These things are better left to me.

Written By Mia Mercado
Illustration Courtney Kiersznowski

There are some things better left to an aunt. As the beautiful aunt to two lucky nieces – both of whom are under 3 and have years of learning ahead of them – it is both my duty and my privilege to impart what wisdom I have onto the next generation. It takes a village, you know. So, you handle the walking, the potty training, the shaping them into decent human beings, and I’ll handle the important stuff. Here are a few life subjects for which I’m already developing loose curriculums.

What Are All the Swears?

If there’s one thing that is key to maneuvering around the world confidently and independently, it’s driving. Will I teach my nieces the mechanics of how to drive? God, no. But I will teach them what words feel and sound best to yell at other drivers who cut you off, drive recklessly or beep at you for no reason. If you think about it, learning which swears are the most effective in any given situation is equally important to moving around the world. So, in a sense, I will be teaching them how to drive.

Who Is Cardi B and Why Do I Love Her so Much?

As parents, you may not have the time or energy to stay up-to-date on the latest music, movies, rap icons, etc. This is where I come in, blasting Cardi B’s “I Like It” at full volume. If there’s one part of peripheral parenthood I’m prepared for, it’s pop culture education. As someone with the taste of a much younger idiot, I have probably binge-watched, binge-listened to or binge-read whatever piece of pop culture your child is avidly consuming. Plus, you’ve likely already spent your kids’ former years listening to sleepy time soundtracks, reading Goodnight Moon cover to cover and watching the same thirty minutes of Frozen at their will. It’s time you watch, listen to or read something of your own volition. My personal volition just happens to be watching teen rom-coms nonstop.

"When, years from now, my nieces want to know what sex is, I will handle the subject with grace, an open mind and have them listen to the entire discography of Boyz II Men. 'This,' I’ll say, gesturing to the speakers, 'Babies come from listening to this.'"

Where Do Babies Come From?

I’m sex-positive – as in, I’m positive your kids don’t really want to learn about sex from you, their parent. On the other hand, I’m sure your kids’ sex education isn’t best left to Google search results and second-hand stories from their friends with older siblings. When, years from now, my nieces want to know what sex is, I will handle the subject with grace, an open mind and have them listen to the entire discography of Boyz II Men. “This,” I’ll say, gesturing to the speakers, “Babies come from listening to this.”

How Do You Do Taxes?

Ha-ha, just kidding. I don’t want to teach them this. You can do that. Actually, can you teach me how to do taxes?

What’s Alcohol?

One day your toddler will be a teen, and they will be friends with other teens. And, perhaps, those teens will want to do drugs and drink alcohol. At this point, I will be old and boring and discourage your teens from doing drugs and drinking alcohol, at least until they are their frontal lobes have developed more. “You are poor and young and can afford neither drugs nor alcohol, both cerebrally and financially,” I’ll say. However, I will give them espresso the second they ask for it, which will keep them off of hard drugs and alcohol for a good while.

Do Adults Have Everything Figured Out?

If there’s one thing I know about being a kid — as someone who was one once — it’s that they love the idea of being a grown-up. Becoming an adult seems fun and cool when you are 10 and have yet to learn about the 24-hour news cycle and student loans. As anyone who is even remotely an adult will tell you: It is not that fun and cool. At least not all the time. As a parent, I’m assuming you want to seem put together to your child. That makes sense. It’s like how, as a student, your teachers seemed very mature and wise. But now, with some of your former high school classmates teaching elementary school students, and you’re like, “...oh, Ms. Patterson was definitely hung-over sometimes, wasn’t she?” While you will exemplify the ideal of adulthood, allow me to exemplify the reality: messy and often still figuring it out.

Between the two of us, your kids are going to grow up great, with a full breadth of knowledge on everything from why the sky is blue to dying their hair blue. And, if all else fails, there’s always Google and their friends with older siblings.


Mia Mercado is a writer who has been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times. She has also written for Hallmark Cards. She has a couple nieces, one dog and zero self-control while eating chips.