There’s something unique about the connection between cousins. Growing up, I had many cousins but unfortunately, they didn’t live close by. While I fondly remember some holidays in Pennsylvania with a really funny group of extended family, and have memories of other cousins all over the world, we never got together often enough to have really close personal relationships. Our family consisted of my sister, my parents, my grandparents and my aunt, who has always been more like a sister because of the relatively small age difference between us. In terms of cousins, you know what you know, so I never fully grasped what I had missed out on until I had my own children and the subsequent pleasure of watching them interact with my nephews and nieces.
The age difference between this next generation of cousins in our family ranges from 8 months to 8 years. They don’t see each other as often as they should because we all live in different cities. In the case of my teenage niece, an ocean separates us and Europe, where she lives. We’re not as good with Face Time and Skype as we should be and since most of them are too young to have email addresses, they are not yet forwarding jokes to one another (or for that matter, emails griping about us)!
Despite infrequent visits, something magical happens each time our family comes together. They instantly connect in a way that’s very different than when they are with their best friends. It’s hard to describe. There is a certain ease amongst them, an effortless connection and a true affection that’s evident in all of their interactions. Sibling rivalries somehow cease to exist among cousins, and there’s never a time where they tire of one another’s company. They make each other laugh easily and take a real interest in one other. There’s a genuine sense of protectiveness and display of affection that I rarely see them show anyone else.
It’s interesting to witness the evolving connections. At the moment, my youngest is bosom buddies with her cousin who’s less than a year older. When we were recently on vacation together, they were inseparable. Whether playing Barbies, dressing up, swimming or watching TV, it didn’t matter – as long as they were right next to each other at all times. Giggling, chatting, or just sitting there together, they were content, connected and in perfect sync.
My oldest daughter has a very close connection with my nephew who’s a year older than her. The sun rises and sets with all that he does and says. As a result, she is now an avid WWE and Dallas Cowboys Fan and loves Pokemon. When together, they all walk with arms around each other or hold hands. Their belly laughs at one another’s silly antics are genuinely priceless. When I watch the older kids with the younger ones, it’s equally heartwarming. They watch over them, cuddle with them, play games that they are way too old to really enjoy, and go out of their way to entertain them – all without ever being asked to.
Because of the physical distance between us, they seem to sense that they’re on borrowed time, and can’t get enough of each other when together.
This connection is instinctive and comes from the heart. When we tell them about an upcoming visit involving any of their cousins, they squeal with unparalleled delight. When they have to say good-bye to one another, tears and prolonged hugs are always par for the course. We have to listen to endless questions of why we don’t all live closer, or see each other more often, and our answers are never good enough for them (or for me for that matter)!
About 15 years ago, my sister, aunt and I all lived within 15 blocks of one another. Sometimes, I think about how different life would be if that were still the case. I imagine Friday night cousin sleepovers, Sunday night family dinners and lots of dropping off and picking up and really being a part of all the children’s day-to-day lives. Without a doubt, I know that I would truly love and enjoy that reality, just as much as my daughters would.
For now, we have to make do with memorable visits, taking lots of pictures in hope of capturing this beautiful cousin connection. The kids have it down – they waste no time when they’re together – they quickly pick up where they last left off and go about their merry way, happily creating new memories. It relies on us, the adults, to make sure that these get-togethers happen more frequently in order to keep this unique connection thriving, to nurture it as they grow into tweens, teens and adults.
Ironically, through Facebook, I am now much more connected with all my amazing cousins, as well as my husband’s cousins, all over the world. On those special occasions when we do get together with our extended families, the kids pick up on the family connection and there’s seldom any awkwardness between them. It’s truly a beautiful thing to witness. Aside from wishing that distance didn’t separate us as much as it does, I also wish that all of our families were just a little bigger – since more cousins would clearly equal more fun.
I’m hoping that as they grow, they continue to feel the connection, to turn to one another when they need a shoulder to cry on, or advice that comes from someone who was raised with a similar background and set of values. Most importantly, I hope that they understand that this special group of family members will always have their backs and their best interests at heart. I hope they will continue to watch out for one another and grow to truly appreciate the bond that is unique to families.
My hope is that with our increased efforts, they will seek each other out throughout their lives (ideally living closer to one another) and eventually pass on the bond to their own children, and the next generation of cousins.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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