“God made us cousins because he knew our moms couldn’t handle us both!”
Siblings are one of life’s greatest blessings; my sister has been a lifelong best friend, playmate, confidant, teammate, supporter, and inspiration. Still, even the closest brothers and sisters experience unavoidable rivalries and jealousies due to competition for family resources and attention, inevitable comparisons, similar genetics, proximity, etc. Many of these relationship challenges are minimized among cousins, however, who are bound by enduring family ties but whose lives are sufficient distinct so less likely to clash. At least, that has been the case in my personal experience and for most people I know.
I am very blessed to have twenty cousins, almost all of whom are now married with children, creating a diverse extended family. Even more fortunate is that fact that we, including our spouses and children, all get along and genuinely love each other unconditionally. While growing up in Southern California, almost all of my cousins lived in the Northeast, so we only saw each other at family reunions every other summer or at the occasional wedding. Still, our parents all stressed the importance of family so my East Coast cousins made a point of including my sister and me, although we still always felt like outsiders.
Now that we’re adults, and I have moved to the East Coast, I continue to love my cousins unconditionally, but I am also able to see them more often and have developed genuine friendships with many of them. Their kids display the same love and acceptance towards my son as their parents did to me as children, and I feel so fortunate to be able to pass along my large extended family.
Of course, these kids are my son’s second cousins, but he also has three first cousins, the children of my sister and of my husband’s sister.
He is particularly taken with my sister’s daughter, who is just a year older than him. From the moment he was mobile, he has followed her around like a puppy dog, and now will follow her orders or surrender a favorite toy if she wants it. In return, my niece is very patient with my son and lets him play with her “big kid” things. Watching the two of them together is truly heart-warming (and a little worrying, as I imagine the mischief they are going to get into together as they get older).
But it’s bittersweet. This generation, it’s my family that lives on the East Coast while my parents and sister are in Southern California. We try to see each other at least two or three times a year, but it’s not the same as having grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins as a part of our everyday lives. My husband and I frequently discuss moving to California, but every time we visit I’m reminded that – aside from the proximity to my family, which is wonderful – I really am much happier in D.C.
So we will be celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, and our new addition far from any relatives. Thank goodness for Skype!