Squashing sitcom envy

It turns out that how things were on the TV shows with which we grew up is rarely how it actually is in real life.

Kate Nelson

I have, without a doubt, the cutest niece ever born.

She’s perfect in every way, from her former nickname for me (“Tit,” because she couldn’t pronounce her k’s. Or her ate’s, apparently.) to her straightforward explanation for why she’s, say, peeling the skin off her chicken nuggets (“I don’t want it on.”).

My dearest little Emma turned 3 on June 8. There was a seemingly endless celebration for the wee one that began with a sugar-driven celebration at day care, involved a stop at Chuck E. Cheese’s and ended with a trip to the circus. But all of this was devoid of presents from Aunt Kate.

My sister called me this past Monday because she had received the box of gifts I’d sent for Emma. That’s right, more than two weeks behind schedule. I’m not proud of my present-giving procrastination because that’s not how it’s supposed to happen. That’s just not how it’s supposed to be.

It seems our generation grew up in the last few hours of the “how it’s supposed to be” heyday. Our schooldays were

filled with Scruff McGruff and D.A.R.E. followed by evenings of “Full House” and “Family Matters” (back when they weren’t reruns). We were only so lucky if it was a Friday night and we got two hours of “TGIF.”

We were inundated with messages of how the world around us works, how it’s supposed to look. Presumably, we’d grow up in a world just like that.

Well, if your life thus far has been anything like mine, you’ve realized it isn’t as sweet as what we envisioned in our youth. Turns out “how it’s supposed to be” rarely is how it actually is.

So what do you do when you realize you don’t have your own Danny Tanner, Uncle Jesse and Joey to make things right in just half an hour’s time?

I’ve moped far too much about what life, love and family are supposed to be and the fact that mine didn’t always match up. I’ve held in such high regard that unachievable fantasy life that I’ve missed out on valuable moments and memories. I haven’t been able to fully appreciate aspects of my life for what they have been and for what they are.

As it turns out, how it actually is isn’t so bad.

It’s an ongoing but worthwhile battle accepting that a real family isn’t going to mirror that of Carl Winslow and the gang, that you will face challenges that can’t be solved in 30 minutes and that the road of any relationship – romantic or otherwise – will feature a few potholes.

And even if it’s not how it’s supposed to be, it’s OK.

On Monday evening, I listened over the phone as my niece opened her gifts. Both she and my sister were delighted. So delighted, in fact, that Emma declared that I, her Aunt Kate, was her favorite person.

Even though I couldn’t get my act together to send her presents on time, she bestowed upon me such a high honor (even if it only lasted for the duration of the discussion).

And when she made that proclamation, I realized that that – and no other way – is how it’s supposed to be.

Kate Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]