I confess that, of late, I have been doing some important soul searching.
Of course, the important soul searching I have been doing is not the important soul searching typical of a politician, which so often goes, "After much soul searching, I have decided not to accept the nomination of my party for high public office. My decision is purely a personal one and has nothing at all to do with the recent revelation of my sixteen year extramarital affair."
Nor am I doing the important soul searching typical of a celebrity, which so often goes, "After much soul searching, I have decided to write my memoirs, which shall vitally include a chapter on my sixteen year love affair with a married politician. I consider the chapter a duty to my fans and my decision to go public with my affair has nothing to do with the fact my former lover failed to leave her husband for me."
No, the important soul searching I have been doing is on how I should go about being a better uncle to my three young nephews. And by "better", I mean how I should proceed to better corrupt them.
You see, I have been studying the official role of an uncle in American culture. And it has by no means escaped me that, while parents are there to instill admirable virtues in their offspring, aunts and uncles have the duty to instill admirable vices.
That is, by all rights, it does not fall to your parents to teach you how to make realistic fart sounds. Not, at least, if you have a doting aunt or uncle around to teach you such things. Parents, you see, must teach the rules. But rules are dark and oppressive chains upon the soul if you don't know when and how to stretch -- or perhaps even to break -- them. And that's where aunts and uncles come in.
Ideally, it is your aunt or uncle who slips you your first full glass of wine two or three years before you are of legal age. Or who partners with you in breaking curfew. Or who best appreciates your sense of mischief.
That, at least, is my theory. So, what do you think? Have I not discovered the very gist, the very essence, of what it must necessarily mean to be a great aunt or uncle? Have I not unraveled the mystery of it?
More seriously, what do you think the role of an aunt or uncle really ought to be in their nephews and nieces lives?