Cousins Could Be the Best Gift We Can Give Our Kids
As I write this, my kids have currently been begging for their cousins to come over and play for oh, a good week now. They have big plans to play in the woods, show off the fort they have been building, and make the quintessential fall activity of caramel apples. Their cousins are their very favorite people on earth, despite some age differences, and their bond cannot be ascribed to simply seeing each other frequently.
Instead, their bond can only be described as the special brand of magic that only cousins can provide.
And I am here for it. Because honestly, cousins are the best.
I am fortunate enough to come from a pretty big family; my mom has 8 siblings and most of their children have risen to the occasion of also producing enough offspring to successfully stock a farm, so cousins abound in my family. One extended family member famously had 18 kids, just like the good Irish Catholic immigrants they were. And in my family, we don't discriminate; second and third cousins and fourth cousins-once removed (honestly, I still don't understand what this even means, can anyone enlighten me??) are all the same. Cousins are cousins.
Just this past week, I have been able to catch up with two cousins who live in different states than me, cousins that I haven't seen in forever, cousins that I don't see on a regular basis, and cousins that have kids at very different stages than me, but yet, we were able to pick up right where we left off, because that bond of being cousins is enough. It's enough to get us through a chaotic dinner at a packed restaurant, it's enough to swap funny insider family stories, and it's enough to propel us into the future.
Growing up, I was the oldest girl cousin, which meant that a lot of my childhood was actually spent corralling my younger cousins at family gatherings instead of actually playing with my cousins, and while in a lot of ways, all of that free babysitting helped prep me for the grueling task of mothering my own four kiddos, I also definitely longed for a different kind of childhood for my own daughters. I wanted them to be the ones running free and squealing and having an absolute blast with their cousins, not the ones making sure they stayed out of the adults' way or didn't get hurt.
Of course, there are gifts to having cousins of every age and my daughters, who are, ironically, also the oldest girl cousins among the pack, genuinely enjoy being around the little baby and toddler cousins in the bunch. They are learning important life skills about taking care of little ones and being that “cool” older cousin the little ones look up to. In fact, we have a brand-new baby cousin that we are all looking forward to meeting soon and they are all so excited.
And let's face it–sometimes you don't get a choice to where you fall in the cousin line-up and sometimes cousins running wild and unsupervised is a recipe for disaster or even true tragedy. I would never want to discount anyone who has suffered true trauma at the hand of a cousin or other family member with a blanket, “Cousins are the best!” statement. If that's you, know that you are seen and you have full permission to create your own version of a healthy and happy family, cousins or no cousins.
But for those of us who grew up with fond memories of cousins and are genuinely grateful to be able to pass that gift onto our own children, this is a chance for us to take a minute to remember that the gift of seeing my kids and cousins play together is one that we shouldn't take for granted. Because it's one of the purest joys in childhood and I hope so much those relationships will remain strong through life.
Also, it's worth mentioning that studies have confirmed that no matter how close you are, having cousins is usually a gift for people, especially later in life as families tend to grow and drift apart. Maybe there is just something about the bond that is created over knowing that the rest of your family is just a little crazy that is unbreakable, huh?
Do your children have close bonds with their cousins?