Help an Aunt out
July 19, 2011 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me be the coolest Aunt ever, please? My 13 year old niece is visiting for three weeks, and I want to make sure she has a good vacation.

Dear Metafilter,

I feel old. I don't know what's cool anymore. I can barely stand to watch an hour of TV and I've stopped listening to the radio. My main sources of entertainment are books (sometimes YA books, if truth be told, so I'm covered there), the interwebs, and audio books.

My 13 year old niece is coming to visit me for three weeks. I get along great with kids usually and plan on just kind of letting her have her summer vacation and not interfering too much or over planning things.

But I have a bit of a neurotic side and the voices in my head are telling me that I'm not cool enough anymore.

I live 3000 miles from her and see her once a year or so. This is her second extended visit with me but she was 10 the first time, and I understand 10 year olds better than teenagers. Although looking back on it, I was nervous about that visit too and it turned out fine.

Some advice on making sure she has a great vacation with plenty of independence + reasonable expectations for a long term house guest?

I live in Portland, OR. If you want to throw out some ideas for activities. Although I know the city fairly well, I don't know it from teenager's perspective.

Out of Touch in Oregon
posted by dchrssyr to Human Relations (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why not ask her what she wants to do? By 13 she'll have some opinions (and you'll hear it if you don't choose wisely). Send her some travel sites and have her pick out some activities.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:04 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

For sure, take her to see the Chinese Garden. It's pretty unusual and certainly beautiful. I concur about asking her what she'd like to do. You're cool just because you are her aunt. She wouldn't have wanted to come back to visit if she didn't think so.
posted by Anitanola at 6:22 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just had my 13 yo nephew for 10 days and his 16 yo sister for 3 weeks. Our pattern was me up at 6am, they sleep until noon, we lunch and then head out for some random fun thing (swimming, shopping, festival, tourist attraction of your choice) then I go to sleep and they chat/Facebook/game until the wee hours of the morning. Honestly, if I'd just let them sleep, fed them from time to time and given each of them a computer or iPad they would have been thrilled. YMMV!
posted by Cuke at 6:27 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take her shopping for school clothes. She will love you forever.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:30 PM on July 19, 2011

Ask her to bring music she likes listening to in the car -- you may hate it but it will score you major I HAVE A COOL AUNT points. Share with her the music you liked at her age, too.

She may be into things like clothes and make-up. Let her do your makeup. Buy her some cool makeup that she would not normally get on her own. Get mani/pedis.

If you have a TV let her occasionally stay up a little later (11 PM? Midnight?) watching movies. Age appropriate of course.

Is she creative? Do a craft together. If you knit, and she doesn't, teach her how if she's open to that.

Unless she's living under a rock don't be surprised if she's addicted to texting/facebook/being in constant contact with her friends. Let her have an hour or so of that a day at least if she wants it, and keep in mind that might be her default activity if you're hanging around the house. It all depends upon how much of that you're willing to put up with I suppose.

When in doubt, go shopping even if it's just window-shopping.
posted by contessa at 6:30 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, DON'T try to be cool. Even if you knew all the songs, all the TV shows, all the cute boys, you would not be cool. You are not cool, because you are not 13. Be yourself and treat your like an adult as much as possible. Let her decide what she eats, what she wears, what she does in her down time (texting and such).

Take her to cool things, but not things that you think will be cool for her, but things that you think are genuinely interesting and fun. Thirteen year olds are really on a cusp between childhood and adulthood, and she will appreciate it if you interact with her like she is an adult.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:44 PM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I did some fun things with my aunt at around the same age. She took me to my first adult play and to see her boyfriend's band perform at a house party. She let me waitress in the restaurant she managed for a couple of hours one day and then took me to a a bookstore to spend my tips. She and her boyfriend also would take me to fancy Chinese restaurants (he was Chinese) for my birthday every year for which we would all get dressed up. She always treated me as a though I was a little older and more sophisticated than I really was and it felt like she was letting me accompany her into her mysterious adult life, so I loved spending time with her.
posted by Wantok at 7:42 PM on July 19, 2011 [11 favorites]

Certainly she'll seem a lot more grown up than the 10 year old you remember, but don't forget that it's a looong way from 13 to 16.

Go ahead and plan a few trips to local attractions/sites that you love and want to show her. Give her a choice of days, but don't hold up scheduling because you're waiting for to show more anticipation than "I dunno, I guess that would be okay if you want."

Bonus side of this sort of hedging of bets is that if she does think something's interesting or cool, she can say so and it be her own thought. (Remember how often school and parents wanted you to reply to something in a proscribed manner to prove that you were paying attention or appreciative or following rules or whatever?)

While you're treating her like an adult, remember to keep an eye out in case she's getting a little overwhelmed. She may appreciate a graceful excuse to go to bed early or have something boring for dinner or otherwise pass on something that she typically wants.
posted by desuetude at 7:50 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

There was a thing in Better Homes and Gardens a few weeks ago about setting up a perfect guest room. It suggested that you fill a drawer with travel-sized products of anything a guest might need. Maybe fill a drawer in your guest room with cool stuff like glitter nail polish and chocolate lip gloss (that's what I would have loved when I was 13).
posted by elvissa at 8:16 PM on July 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I was a teen, the coolest thing about My Cool Aunt was that she talked to me like I was one of her friends. Now I look back and realize "Of course she didn't talk to me at 13 the way she talked to her adult friends." But that's what it felt like. She asked me what I'd like to do (giving options, okay if I didn't want to do anything), told me what she'd like to do (again, I could opt out), made it clear the purpose of the visit was for both of us to have a good time. The specifics don't matter. Portland's a cool town and you're a Cool Aunt already, just by coming here and asking.

Have fun!
posted by kestralwing at 11:31 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you bring her home from the airport it might be nice for her to find a big basket of her favorite packaged foods from back home. You'll give her local favorites, of course, but she's still young enough to get a little homesick, even if she can't or won't tell you. Asking her mother what she likes to snack on and drink might really help her transition.
posted by R2WeTwo at 5:02 AM on July 20, 2011

My niece and nephew are older now, but I still retain "cool aunt" status. Part of being seen as cool comes automatically by virtue of not being her parent. Even years after their solo visits to my house, the things they still remember fondly were the things we all wanted to do, rather than the things I went along with because they wanted to do them. So by all means, ask her what she wants to do and choose those that appeal to you as well. By the same token, mention things you want to do and choose those that appeal to her as well. The point is to enjoy your time together, not to keep her entertained.
posted by DrGail at 6:57 AM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also think that the key to a successful visit is setting an agenda and communicating it. Definitely discuss activity options and what niece wants to do but then make a plan for when these things will happen -- and let her know when. And remind her of what's going on.

"Hey niece, tomorrow we're going to X & Y and we need to be ready to leave the house by 10. So let's make sure we're awake for breakfast at 9:30 and don't forget to pack your bathing suit for X and your hiking boots for Y!"

Yes, I treat grown up visitors exactly the same way. People are happier when they know what's going on and activities run smoother when everyone is prepared.
posted by countrymod at 7:49 AM on July 20, 2011

There are some good answers above, and I think it's awesome that you're doing this. The only reason I still like one of my cousins now, is that I remember that she was this person for me then.

That said, it's three weeks - and both fish and guests stink after three days. Getting out of each other's hair at times might help, and she might want to be around kids her own age. So if there are any neat classes or workshops you could see if she wants to be signed up for, if she's that type, that might be great. Something she's curious about, like cooking or yoga or art?
posted by peagood at 7:51 AM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

She can't be a full-on "guest" for 3 weeks - there's going to be household routines and chores and expectations to establish. I like Rock Steady's point that you are not going to be cool no matter what, so don't break your back trying. I think the ideal would be to have a wide variety of stuff, and she'll treasure the good parts, tell stories about the disasters, and forget all the boring stuff.
- some time for her to do things that 13-year-olds do, on her own or with other teens (like classes/workshops/socializing).
- Some enforced new experiences, family style is fine (we're going to the zoo, we're going to the museum, we're going with the neighbor kid and her family, etc).
- Some allowances for her to be 13 while she's with you: make sure you have technology for her to listen to and share her own music in the car and in the house, and plenty of internet access. Then you can be involved and interested in what she can share with you, but also give her some time to herself. Share stuff, show her your favorite of the stupid kitty videos that your friends link on facebook.
- Something to do with her that shows her what you like, what it's like to be however old you are. Take her to the places you always go, take her out with your friends, go to a posh restaurant, go see a band or a play (an appropriate show would be something not too sexy/sweary but definitely not something geared for kids, that would fall into category 2).Show her your normal life, because it will be different from her parents' lives, and it's always good to have a variety of options for "what adults do". If she doesn't live near public transportation normally, be sure you take the bus places, even if it's kind of inconvenient. If you normally go to the gym to work out, bring her to the gym one day and show her around. If you always go to the bar for Wednesday trivia, take her with you.
posted by aimedwander at 8:16 AM on July 20, 2011

Rent a bike for her and go for a ride on the Springwater Corridor, just the portion along the river. It's very scenic. Plan a picnic and eat it at the floating docks along the river near SE Hawthorne.

Take her to Powell's. Give her a little budget and let her go nuts with whatever book she wants.

Is the Pied Cow, Voodoo Doughnuts or Pix Patisserie still open? If so, go for dessert.

Go for a drive up the gorge. Hike one of the falls.

Take her out to some of the better vintage and second hand shops. Go on a mission for a funky outfit for a night out on the town. Let her stay up ridiculously late with you.
posted by cior at 1:09 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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