The best thing about being an auntie to a small child is being able to partake in all the fun activities, then hand them back to the parents when they start to smell.
The role of an aunt or uncle is a privileged one. It's a bit like having a slice of cake and eating it too. You get all the cuddles and the fun games, you can bribe them with treats and promises of staying up late - but without having to carry the weight of any actual parenting responsibilities.
Kid throwing a tantrum? Shut them up with sugar. Bored? Give them a noisy toy, which doubles as payback for the time your older sister dobbed you in for sneaking out of the house as a teenager.
Here's how to holiday with the nieces and nephews.
Specifically pack treats. Pack all the good stuff they never get at home. Lollies, chocolate, chips. If in doubt, feed them. If they're fussy eaters, be prepared to just eat pasta and cheese all holiday. Better they carb-load than go hungry.
Choose music wisely
Even if you're the same generation as your sibling, this isn't the time to show your age and play embarrassing parent songs. You're the cool auntie and the tunes need to reflect it. The great road trip classics from Van Morrison, Bryan Adams and Toto won't cut it with today's pre-teens so load up the playlist with a bit of Doja Cat, Benee, Lost Sky and The Weeknd.
Name drop well-known New Zealanders
"Oh yeah I saw Benee perform live in Auckland"
"I interview Jacinda all the time"
"I work in the same building as Jeremy Wells."
These are all true statements that I've thrown into conversations with my nieces and nephews just to make my life sound far more interesting to an 11-year-old than it really is. If you bump into a Shortland Street star at a cafe, or even just see someone who looks remotely like a Kiwi celeb, drop it into conversation for instant cred.
Train for the event
Running around after nieces and nephews requires the stamina of an Olympic long-distance runner and the agility of a gymnast. Be prepared for trampoline tag, tree-climbing, chasing after lost skis down a mountain, piggy-backing a small human when they get too tired to walk, while also carrying the bike that they decide they no longer want to ride when you're still a 10km walk away from home.
Learn some TikTok dances
You've had all of lockdown to practise your moves, so there's really no excuse in 2020 not to be able to do at least a little bit of Glitter or the entrance to Blinding Lights. Team up with the kids for a group challenge that'll give them TikTok fame no matter how awkward you might look next to a limber 12-year-old.
Be flexible on bedtime
There's something pretty special about staying up way past your bedtime when the parents aren't around. The best bonding moments are often conversations and stories shared over a warm cup of Milo after 9pm. Sometimes it's not the high-energy playtime that the kids remember, but the softer, more tender moments, when they're a little sleepy but still pretending to be wide awake, and each minute still out of bed is a cheeky treat.
Get ready for some storytelling
Kids love to know what life was like for their parents growing up, and the funny little quirks Nana and Papa had when parenting young children. The kids will enjoy the laugh and realise they're not the only one hiding in shame with cringe-worthy mum and dad moments. The more embarrassing for the parent, the better.
Provide a listening ear
Sometimes kids will be having a tough time at school or with friends, but they don't want to tell their parents about their difficulties. That's quite possibly the most important role of the older relative - creating a safe space for them to share what's on their mind.