It happens most mornings as the sun begins to make its way through our bedroom window.
Before our two-year-old (who undoubtedly sneaked into our bed at some ungodly hour) even has the chance to open his eyes, the sleepy words roll off of his tongue: “We gon’ go play wif da cousins today?”
My husband and I glance at each other from across the bed, that same knowing twinkle in each of our eyes. The reality is, if the answer we give our son is, “Not today,” then it’s probably, “Tomorrow, Buddy,” and very rarely anything longer than, “We’re going to see them on Saturday.”
These answers, although simple, bring our little family so much joy.
In a time when extended families are often spread across the country, and sometimes the globe, raising our kids so near to their cousins is a privilege my husband and I don’t take lightly.
The “cousin time” that was reserved for holidays, weddings, and funerals when we were growing up is something that is commonplace to our own children. As it stands, our kids don’t know a world in which they don’t get to see their cousins all of the time.
For them, the evidence of their time together isn’t just an annual cousins Christmas picture with everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Instead, it’s snapshots of weeknight dinners, Friday playdates, weekend naptimes, and one-hour drop-ins.
Seeing “the cousins” isn’t some big to-do, it just happens.
Raising our kids so close to their cousins means giving them the unique opportunity to write a story of two families intertwined as one.
It’s the story of a little girl who asked for a cousin for her third birthday, and lo and behold got her wish to the exact day. It’s the story of two little boys who are only three months apart in age; boys who will play on the same sports teams, be in the same class in school, and somewhere down the road, likely go on to start and raise families of their own together. It’s the story of a group of kids who bicker, love, annoy, and support one another as if they were all brothers and sisters.
This story isn’t profound, but it is beautiful.
It’s about all of our children creating bonds that will reach far beyond these early years. Bonds they will lean on down the road when things get tough and they need the type of unconditional love and understanding that only family can give.
It’s all of the best parts of childhood, and the fact that the whole gang of cousins is present in nearly every single one. It’s future all-nighters, inside jokes, and secret handshakes. It’s an exclusive club of mischief-causers scheming to get one more scoop of ice cream, one more hour before bedtime, or one more free pass from their ornery escapades.
It’s learning new skills from the bigs, and patience from caring for the littles.
It’s gaining new perspectives on life from people who “get” our kids and understand all of the beauty and complexity of their family’s story in its entirety, the good and the bad.
It’s creating a lifetime of memories that they’ll sit around reminiscing, laughing, and crying about 20 . . . 50 . . . 80 years down the road.
Cousinhood is a bond that truly can’t be replicated with anyone else in life.
Our kids don’t know any differently right now, and chances are it’ll be several years before they realize what a treasure doing life with their cousins has been.
They’re growing up side-by-side, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the greatest gift they could ever be given.
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