NEW ZEALAND: In Praise of Cousins
I have three sons and they are a lot of fun. They are also a lot of noise, mess and busyness.
They adore one another most of the time and loathe one another at other times. Needless to say, living in a small house can get a little hectic and the fact that we live a car trip away from most of the boys’ friends—and I don’t always want to drive to fetch or deliver children—means that, from time to time, my boys can have a little too much of one another.
We are one small family and that can make us all tiresome to one another – no matter how strong the love between us.
The healthiness of living in an isolated, nuclear family unit has always bothered me a little. Not that living with my extended family or my in-laws would suit me, or them I suspect, either. But the cousins. Oh my goodness. The wonder of having cousins around – that appeals to me.
With cousins there is the common bond of grandparents and other family members, and the common history and the common family rituals. There is the emotional connection of knowing they all belong together, and the emotional connection of having been all together for their life times.
But, what I really love is the bond I see between our boys and all of their cousins in terms of visible affection and loyalty. When we have been away on holiday together, older cousins have often taken our boys off for adventures or have played with them, especially as babies and toddlers, so I could have a break. Younger cousins provide opportunities for my older boys to teach and help, in their turn. Sometimes it’s just fun to hang out together.
With their cousins, my boys are learning that things their brothers have said to them repeatedly, and they have ignored, are often the same opinions of others – and their cousins are not afraid to tell them so, sometimes bluntly. They are learning a higher level of co-operative skills and greater negotiation techniques, than they get to use with just two others. They are learning to walk away, when they need to walk away, and they are learning when it is appropriate to comment on another’s behaviour and when it is best to stay silent.
Like their brothers, their cousins love them. Unlike their brothers, their cousins are listened to. Like their friends, their cousins enjoy playing with them and will tell them to go away, when they‘ve had enough – but only for a short while. Unlike their friends, they cannot be transient members of their lives. And that last point, in particular, I love.
Do your children have good relationships with their cousins? Do you see a deeper bond between your children and their cousins, than with their friends?