Somehow my adult siblings and I ended up living in three different states, but two years ago, we all made a pact that our kids would know each other — no matter what it takes. We decided at our last family gathering that despite the miles separating our kids, we would make regular visits happen so our kids can know the joy of growing up with their cousins around.
I was lucky to have lots of cousins nearby when I was growing up. I had cousin sleepovers, and we played elaborate make-believe games in the backroom of my grandma’s house, building forts and pretending we were dogs. I had fun swimming in the lake with cousins, fishing, and playing card games. I have cousins the same age as me, and cousins who babysat me and are many years older. I love them all dearly.
I have fond memories of family reunions where we played for hours as the adults talked, and we all sweated it out in the Texas summer heat in pure bliss, happy just to be together. I have memories of nighttime games and weeklong visits when we were spoiled by each other’s parents and got a reprieve from our own.
Cousins are like having all the benefits of a sibling, without actually having to live with them.
Cousins know your secrets, and they know what it’s like to have a mom or dad just enough like your own to relate, but just different enough to make it fun to sleep over for a change of scenery and a little spoiling.
Cousins are like having your best friend visit for all the important family events, so you can sneak off and have a little fun while the adults are boring themselves with talking.
Cousins have your same quirky sense of humor and kind of look like you too. In fact, they are enough like you that you can be completely yourself around them, without feeling weird or different. They know what it’s like to come from a really loud family like you do, and they laugh at all your jokes because they genuinely find them funny.
It’s instantly comforting to hang out with someone who has the same wit and enjoys the same banter as you, but who has just the right amount of differences to make it more fun than hanging out with your brother or sister. They are role models and confidants, the sister you never got or the best friend you always wanted.
I’d argue that cousins are an essential part of a happy life because they love you fiercely, remember you as a baby, and cheer you on as an adult. Having a cousin is like having a forever friend in your corner, no matter what life throws your way.
I see these kinds of relationships blossoming between my own kids and their cousins, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. While I don’t always love the long road trips it takes to make it happen, watching my kids bond with their cousins and talk about the memories they are making with them for months afterward is worth all the “Are we there yet?” questions in the world.
I love my nieces and nephews as much as I could possibly love a child who isn’t my own, and it’s a gift to watch my kids love them as much as I do.
I make these long trips because I look at my daughter, who desperately wants a sister, and know that her relationship with her cousin, almost the same exact age, will be a lifelong one that will help fill that gap.
I look at my 8-year-old and see the joy he feels when he gets to hang out with his cousin who is just a few months his senior and play with Nerf guns all day, and talk about Legos, Star Wars, and all kinds of kid stuff with someone who is just as interested as he.
And I look at my youngest and see the joy in his eyes when he gets to spend time with his older cousins and be included because there is no leaving anyone out when cousins are around.
It seems like the time has passed when our cousins lived down the street or just across town. But to this day, I message, call, and text my cousins regularly enough that it doesn’t matter. I’m almost 40, and I consider my cousins some of my greatest friends in this life and my biggest cheerleaders.
I want that for my kids. The miles may separate them, but I will make sure they know each other, no matter the cost, and make memories that will bond them together for a lifetime.
The last time my siblings and I were all together was almost two years ago, and my kids still talk about the experiences they had on that trip with their cousins like it was yesterday. This spring we’re getting together again for swimming, horseback riding, and playing video games past bedtime. My guess is they’ll remember this trip as fondly as the last, and we’ll all keep coming back for more.
My cousins are one of the greatest blessings I’ve been given in this life. And I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure my kids know that blessing too.