Real Simple etiquette expert Catherine Newman helps one uncle become a more active and supportive member of his extended family.

Stephanie Rausser

Q. I am the proud uncle of three boys, who are ages 12, 15, and 17. All three are involved in tons of activities: performances, recitals, ball games, and so on. My brother and sister-in-law often fail to tell me of these events, or they tell me the day of, which makes it harder to attend. Without upsetting them, what can I say to ensure that I don’t miss out? I truly enjoy being my nephews’ No. 1 fan!


A. Your question veered deliciously away from what I thought you were going to ask. You don’t want to spare yourself ceaseless avuncular spectatorship—you want more! Your nephews are lucky to have such a doting uncle, and you’re lucky to have such a delightful and easily solved issue.

Assuming that you’re not a “problem fan” (if you were screaming your nephews’ names and waving a giant foam finger around, you’d tell me, right?), all you need to do is ask your brother for an earlier heads-up: “I don’t want to miss any opportunities to support the kids,” you could tell him. Or use your own perfect line: “I truly enjoy being my nephews’ No. 1 fan!”

Another solution, given their ages, would be to ask the kids themselves to e-mail you when they have games or performances. Once they understand that you genuinely want to come and that you don’t feel burdened by their invitations, I’m sure that they’ll be happy to keep you in the loop.

—Catherine Newman

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