It was an ex-boyfriend who first told me of this secret. He said that his aunty had passed away a couple of years before we met and that he often thought he loved her more than his mum. He wore the watch she bought him religiously.

‘The bond between a nephew and an aunty is so special. So special.’

It was one of those things that flits in and out of your mind every now and then, you think about it at odd times, but never when it really should stand out.

I have four (and a step-) nephews. Whether I got a glimpse of them an hour after they were born or came into my life at age thirteen, I love them so much. They’re so different. I love watching them grow and become more like their mum or a distant relative, hearing about what they said on Christmas morning or getting a message from them while I’m interstate saying they got a tattoo on their leg and not to tell my sister. They crack me up. Whenever it’s school holidays and I get to take them out for the day and play around with them, it’s such a joy. We have so much fun. Sometimes they test my patience and make me want to go crazy – but I’m sure I do the same to them. I'm closer in age to three of them than their mums and I.

We have such a special thing between us all. I get to be to them what my sisters were to me. I’m that in between of their parents and their friends. I’m young enough and old enough and they remind me that I’ve worn my overalls too many times and look at me funny when I eat cereal out of the box and keep me humble. I’m never a ‘cool aunty’ and I love that.

One of my nephews (age nine) roasts me every time I see him. He questions everything I do, tells me I’m weird, that I look funny, and pulls faces at me when I tell him to do his homework. We have the exact same humour, and he’s made me laugh more than anyone else since he was six. When he and I go out together we get mistaken for mama and son. He plays along with it.

They don't want to hear about your mean boss or the grade you got on your last uni assignment. They want you to listen to them read their book and laugh at their bad jokes and throw the ball back to them and show up to their soccer games.

I can’t wait for them to get older (I can. Stop growing.) and for this bond to keep growing stronger and to keep loving them and keep receiving their love.

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