I don't have children. I married rather late in my childbearing years, to someone who knew he didn't want children. I was ambivalent about the whole thing (I'm the oldest of five, so already knew quite a bit about the non-romantic aspects of caring for babies). So when it came right down to making the decision I was ok with agreeing to no children (truth be told, I'm probably too selfish anyway).
But I like being an auntie. Some of my older nieces and nephews through marriage I'm not very close to. I probably entered their lives too late to form much of a relationship or, being a "second wife," maybe was never thought of as their real aunt. I don't know - water under the bridge. Some of the interpersonal relationships in my inlaws' family are a bit bewildering to me anyway.
But I treasure the relationship I have with the children of my own siblings. I'm especially close to my California sister (let's call her Annodear), and have been a part of her two boys' lives on a regular basis since they were born. They're seniors in high school now (yes, twins), starting to think about college and leaving the nest.
Our mom always said her goal was to raise self-sufficient adults. She succeeded, too. All of us have had our fits and starts, ups and downs, but we are all, indeed, leading successful lives. Annodear has the same aspiration, and she and her husband are doing an admirable job. Besides overseeing their schoolwork, the quest for a driver's license, assigning their share of the household chores, Annodear has also included some life skills lessons.
When I first went away to college myself, as a teen, it was interesting to see how many freshmen boys were suddenly wearing pink t-shirts and socks - one red shirt in with the whites will do that, and they obviously had never had to deal with doing their own laundry. Annodear's boys have learned about laundry.
Sewing is another one of those life lessons. At the very least, the boys now know how to thread a needle, sew on a button, patch holes in their pants, and hand-sew a seam. Money management, too, is an on-going lesson.
The ability to feed one's self, without resorting to a diet of fast food and vending machine fare, is their latest endeavor. Annodear has a blog, writing even more sporadically than I. But she did just recently write about how a household with two working adults and two teenage boys deal with mealtime chores. I think it's a great plan - read more about it on her blog, here (the above photo is in my kitchen, after Thanksgiving dinner - the first time the boys, raised in a house with an automatic dishwasher, had been faced with a sinkful of dirty dishes. I gave them a quick lesson in washing dishes by hand, and left them to it).