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In Praise of Uncles


I’ve had uncles on my mind recently. One of my uncles has been in the hospital and my brother-in-law (and sister and nephews) moved several states away, so one of my kids’ uncles will now be less involved in their lives in the direct way he has been. Being an uncle is a unique role and I don’t think they get the credit they deserve.

Uncles are the guys who tease your parents and let you know that your mom and dad were once just big sisters and little brothers. They tell funny stories about your parents that make you laugh and remind you to give them grace because they’re people, too.

Uncles can play games with kids that parents don’t want to bother with. Since you don’t see uncles as often, they can be the human jungle gym without setting a precedent that this is normal behavior (True story– my brother-in-law’s name is Jim and when I once told my kids to quit climbing on me because, “I’m not a jungle gym” they asked in total sincerity, “But what about Uncle Jim? Is he a Jungle Jim?” That totally made sense to them.). They can teach you the obnoxious songs that your parents will be cursing under their breath for weeks later. They can show you how to do that armpit farting noise and parents can’t get mad because it was the uncle that did it.


Uncles can feed you ice-cream when your parents aren’t looking and will defend you when you accidentally spill it on your white Easter dress. They will tell you dumb jokes and pay you a quarter to repeat them to your parents. They find something about you charming that nobody else can see and they encourage you to chase dreams when your parents want to shield you from disappointment. So I’ve got a couple messages for The Uncles:

To My Uncles,

Thank you for loving me in your own unique ways. Thank you for praying for me and caring about the decisions I made. Since I lost my grandparents early in life, I know you have taken on some of that role of being invested in me and praying for me. That hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thank you for encouraging my parents at moments they were discouraged in life and in parenting. I know the ways they talk about you and the deep friendships you share. I know this has made them the parents they are and for that I am thankful.

I love how you make my parents laugh. They laugh with their siblings in a way that’s special and without reservation. I remember hiding around the corner or under the table as a kid just to hear it. And thank YOU for laughing and enjoying life in ways that always made it a treat to be together. When I hear my kids laughing together, there’s something in it that reminds me of you.

It makes me happy that I have memories of each of my uncles singing. There’s such a joy in singing and a vulnerability in sharing in musical expression together. I hope that’s something my kids will remember about some of their uncles, too (although it’s been more of a whistling trio the last few Christmases, which has its own merits. Uncles are allowed to be quirky that way.).

Thank you for being men of integrity– loving your wives, devoted to your kids, charmed by your grandkids, serving your church. I have no doubt that men can be loving, kind, strong and gentle because I’ve known good uncles.

(And Uncle Elwin, thank you for never mentioning the time I rode the wooden roller coaster with you when I was a teenager and was too embarrassed to scream, but too terrified to be quiet so I just compulsively coughed the whole time. That was weird, but you never made me feel weird about it.)

To the Uncles of My Kids,

Thank you for investing in these kids. They know that in your eyes they are funny and talented and special. They want to win your favor and are willing to do all kinds of ridiculous things if they think it will make you smile and I love that. Thank you for being the kind of men that I want them to want to please.

You have rocked my babies when they were fussy, watched my kids when we went out of town, helped them pull out a lose tooth, laughed at their jokes, played chess with them, rescued them from trees they climbed too high in, took them fishing, explored the art museum with them and answered all their weird questions. You were at the hospital when babies were born and in the courthouse when toddlers were adopted. You have been an example of love and kindness in their lives.

To All the Uncles,

Never underestimate the important role you have to play. You are helping us in the important task of building up strong men and women who are confident in their value and worth. Your love and concern for them is part of their story– that they were important to the important people in their lives.

We need your goofiness and bad puns. We need you to play “got your nose” with our kids. We want you to be part of the circle of support our kids know they can count on. And we need your help as we face the challenges of parenting and life.

Thank you for being part of the team. For keeping us humble as you remind us of all our embarrassing moments when we’re tempted to expect perfection from our kids. For giving us encouraging words about what great qualities you see in our kids when we’re focusing on the negative. For praying for us when we’re all out of answers (and hopefully before that point, too.)

We love you. We need you. We’re thankful for you!

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  1. So true Maralee. Uncles are unique! Each one has their own way of showing it. I remember each of my uncles, some funny, some serious, some playful with his nieces and nephews. I loved them all for their uniqueness and have special memories of each one.

  2. Very cool. Jim and I enjoyed this post. : ) And we enjoy (and miss) your awesome kids.

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