• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
Thinking Out Loud

Aunting

by User Not Found | Aug 16, 2011

A refreshing look at the impact of extended kinship networks on families and communities

This post was written by Dianne Reistroffer. 

The Rev. Dr. Dianne Reistroffer is Director of Field Education and Methodist Studies and Professor of Ministry at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

As another summer draws to a close, fond memories of family reunions – large and small – come to mind. This summer’s family reunion of the Reistroffer clan was centered around the safe return of my nephew, Tony, from a year’s deployment as part of the international peace-keeping force in the Sinai. It was a grand occasion. My favorite reunion took place years ago in Miles City, Montana, when five generations of the Crosby clan (my maternal grandmother’s people) assembled. I accompanied my grandfather to the event, which took place just months after Grandma Hart’s passing. Despite his deep grief, Grandpa Hart was determined to go, and I am glad that I went. It was a special time for us as I met people who were a vital part of my grandmother’s formation and spirit. The poignancy of meeting all of these Crosbys was underscored by the fact that Grandpa was beginning to show signs of memory loss, and now I was becoming the repository of family narratives and connection.

Reunions remind me of the beauty of extended kinship networks and their impact on families and communities. Sadly, we in the church speak little of the roles and practices of aunts, uncles, cousins, and other kin folk. The sway of the nuclear family (husband, wife, children) in our preaching, teaching, and programming seems peculiar in light of the biblical witness to extended families. Indeed, my favorite family reunion story is the account of the missing twelve-year-old Jesus, assumed to be with other members of the extended family as they all journeyed from their hometowns to Jerusalem for the annual celebration of Passover (Luke 2:39-52). In the traveling company of relatives and friends, Mary and Joseph believed that Jesus would be safe and protected (v. 44). As someone who relishes her role as an aunt, I find myself in this Gospel story, in this single verse.

Any mention of the place of aunts and uncles in our families and communities catches my attention. Perhaps that is why a book my colleague, Frances S. Adeney, shared with me this summer brought an immediate sense of joy. Written by two professors of communication, Aunting: Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life is a study of aunts in contemporary families and the important role they play in families and communities.[1] I smiled when Frances’s gift arrived in my office because my faculty colleagues have grown accustomed to this auntie’s frequent e-mails celebrating the achievements and lamenting the struggles of two generations of my nephews and nieces. I relish my role and active “aunting” of now two dozen nephews, nieces, great-nephews, and great-nieces. And while my three siblings have done a marvelous job of parenting, this book gives me validation and permission to rejoice in my vocation of aunting the next two, perhaps three, generations of my family, and to understand the ways “aunts continue to supplement and fill gaps in nurturance inevitably left by nuclear families, which cannot possibly meet all members’ needs without support” (p. 16).

Aunts and uncles care for nieces and nephews, provide them mentoring and modeling, offer them distance and perspective as trusted confidantes, and are prepared to step in to help them and their parents during times of stress and crisis. Interestingly, the authors’ seven-year research about aunts uncovered the phenomenon of “constructed kin” among immigrant and other communities when biological kin are not available. “Neighbor and community aunts” are common in Latino/a, Asian, GLBTQ, and other communities (pp. 39-63), and there is mounting evidence that as biological families become distant, geographically speaking, young adults’ construction of an extended network of neighborhood/community kin has become more common. These findings in Aunting remind us that singles are a growing segment of our society. The number of unmarried Americans 18 and older in 2009 stood at 96.6 million, or 43% of all U.S. residents in this same age group.[2] We in the church would do well by capitalizing on this development and the often unacknowledged resources of extended kin networks. A good first step would be to recognize and honor all those “kin” who play vital roles in our families, in our churches, and in our communities, starting with our weekly family reunions on Sunday!

 


[1] Laura L. Ellington and Patricia J. Sotirin, Aunting: Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010).

[2] http://factfinder.census.gov/, accessed July 25, 2011.

 

1 comment

Leave a comment
  1. EWR | Jun 17, 2016
    Celebrate the gridiron action with an official NFL Jersey from Wholesale Jerseys 2016 . There is no better way to cheer on your team than to replicate the look of your favorite players! At FansEdge.com we have a vast collection of officially licensed NFL Jerseys to help you show off your team spirit
  2. 2014 Super Bowl XLVIII
  3. . From Nike Game jerseys, to Limited and Elite Nike NFL jerseys, our NFL Fan Shop has everything you need to show your true devotion as a fan.Authentic Elite NFL Jerseys: You might not have the opportunity to throw a touchdown pass but you can have the next best thing with one of our Authentic Elite
  4. 2014 Pro Bowl
  5. . Just like what the players wear, our NFL Nike Elite jerseys are a great way to show your dedication. Made from water-resistant fabric
  6. 2013 Super Bowl XLVII
  7. , these Nike NFL Jerseys are built to withstand the same punishment your favorite NFL players endure on the gridiron. Take the opportunity to join the game with one of our Authentic NFL jerseys.NFL Limited Jerseys: The perfect combination of durable construction and team spirit
  8. CFL Jersey
  9. , our selection of NFL Limited jerseys is an absolute must-have for any diehard fan. Our NFL Shop is stockpiled with Nike Limited jerseys. Made from 100% polyester, these NFL Nike jerseys are covered in team colors and are tailored to provide ultimate comfort and durability
  10. Draft Darren Sproles
  11. . Limited jerseys also feature raised appliqué numbers on the front and back to resemble a traditional stitched NFL jersey look. These are great jerseys at an affordable price!NFL Game Jerseys: With a great look and durable construction, our Nike Game jerseys are the real deal
  12. Hall of Fame 50th Patch
  13. . Each jersey features silicone printed graphics of your favorite player's name and number and is tailored to provide you ultimate comfort while showing off your team pride. We offer a range of sizes in our Big & Tall jersey selection with up to 4XL sizing.NFL Throwback Jerseys: Add a little old school flair to your wardrobe collection with one of our
  14. NFL QB Jerseys
  15. . You can turn back the clock by putting on one of these 100% polyester NFL jerseys. We have all the classics from a 1963 Jim Brown Cleveland Browns jersey to a 1983 Walter Payton Chicago Bears jersey. Turn back the clock with one of these Throwback NFL jerseys.
  16. Jerseys Big Size
  17. : If you are an MVP then head over to our Customized Jersey section. Here you can customize your favorite team's jersey with your own name and number. Constructed from 100% polyester
  18. NHL
  19. , these NFL Jerseys are just as tough and durable as what the players wear on the field.Also, don't forget about our Women's
  20. MLB
  21. , Youth Jerseys, and Toddler NFL Jerseys! Whatever type of Jersey you choose for yourself or a gift, we know you will be happy with your football jersey. FansEdge has all the NFL for the true fan in you!

    Leave a comment

    • 1044 Alta Vista Road |
    • Louisville, KY 40205 |
    • 800.264.1839 |
    • Fax: 502.895.1096 |
    • Site Map
    © Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary