Some time ago, I wrote about how my masculinity was threatened because I had lost my job and was forced to accept that, as a person with much more time on his hands, I would be responsible for doing more of the housework, tasks that are traditionally known to be completed by women.
During my re-education, I learned that:
• dishes need to be washed;
• clothes need to be washed;
• floors need to be vacuumed; and
• basically, everything in the house needs to be cleaned regularly.
Who knew? I thought my wife sat around all day in fuzzy slippers, eating bon-bons, and watching Dr. Phil, when in fact, she was a veritable tornado of cleaning implements, circulating throughout our home, dispatching dirt and grime to the dust bin.
So I had to hang up my masculinity, learn how to tie on an apron, and pitch in around the house. With the passage of time, I have become comfortable with my new role, and, in an effort to maintain our household in the sense of not going bankrupt, I have taken up a variety of income-generating jobs, some of which require me to don my masculinity, and others that do not. It is these others that have led me to conclude that I need to nurture another trait, one that I call “avunculinity.”
Everybody admires the avuncular newscaster like Walter Cronkite, or TV host like David Hartman. Dan Rather nearly achieved avuncular status, but threw it all away with the whole Rathergate thingy where he egregiously accused David Hartman of trying to out-avunculate Walter Cronkite.
Anyway, having a mix of 34 nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, and godchildren on both sides of my family, I know a little something about avuncularity.
Two of my jobs that will greatly benefit from fostering my avunculinity are tutoring and driving a school bus.
For most students that pursue a college or university education, there comes a time when they are confronted with an almost insurmountable curricular barrier that threatens their dreams of landing the perfect job in the field of their choice so that they can spend the next 25 years building a career out of paying off their student loans. This barrier is known as “statistics and probability” to professionals, but known in layman’s terms as “who on earth uses this stuff and why do I have to know it?”
So statistics and probability is a trying subject for many students, which is unfortunate for the student, but great for people like me who can tutor them through the intricacies of why polls are accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Since many students are close to tears, I need to be at my avunculest to guide them through to a successful completion of the course.
Now, driving a school bus full of children ranging in age from three to 13 probably makes you wonder what kind of a nut I am. But there is something endearing about watching a small child, bundled in eight layers of winter clothing because it is February in Ottawa and the temperature can go as low as -140 degrees in whatever scale you like laboring up the four steps into the bus like they were miniature versions of Sir Edmund Hillary scaling the peak of Mount Everest.
Then, later on, watching this same small child bumble up the narrow bus aisle, pry apart his toque and neck warmer wide enough so that a small mouth can make its appearance to stutter, “S-s-s-s-s-s-someone punched someone.”
This is when I smile avuncularly down at the child, put my hands on my knees (the bus is stopped in case you were wondering), and say the only thing that I can say with the wisdom of a sage: “What? Go back to your seat.”
You can’t buy avuncular moments like that!
The only thing that worries me now is if I land another job that isn’t suitable for my masculine or avuncular sides. Maybe there’s an auntular side of me that I don’t know about.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and is the principal behind the services of Statistics Courses. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.