My immediate family is the somewhat precise combination of three children of the exact same age and two parents that makes owning a minivan a necessity if we all want to travel together. Try putting three infant seats or boosters in the back seat of a sedan, and you will understand.
My extended family is even bigger. I have a brother and a sister, each with children. Right now, there are four boy cousins, with another cousin arriving at the end of the month.
My kids have discovered the joy of cousins. My brother brought his kids over recently, and all of the cousins played together at my house. I am so lucky he only lives an hour away because my kids just can’t get enough of them. “Cousins! Cousins! Cousins!” This is the chant I hear from my kids on most afternoons. “When do we get to see the cousins again?”
The magic of playing with a cousin is something I don’t know much about because mine were spread all over the country. Harlan was in a similar boat. His cousins were all 30 years older than he and his siblings.
My kids are 6, and the cousins range from two-and-a-half to 10 years old. My brother’s kids teach my kids, who in turn teach my sister’s kids. The never-ending flow of ideas and passing of toys from one family to the next is hard to keep up with. When we visit my sister’s family in Connecticut, the toys that my kids had long since given up once again become the center of attention. Go figure.
My brother and I did not always get along. Neither did my sister and I. That’s what siblings do, I guess. But family bonds are strong, and as I watch my brother go through a divorce, I take comfort knowing my kids can be there for his kids just as I can be there for him.
In May, we are going to have a family shower for my sister. Baby No. 3 means no baby shower, thus the reason for the “family shower.” There is much to celebrate. My sister’s youngest son will become a big brother for the first time, and his big brother will earn that title a second time.
The thought of seeing all the cousins together is just so cool. This hasn’t happened since September 2010. Watching them play and have fun is something we all remember very fondly. My mom loves it because she can see seven of her grandkids together at the same time. I love that we can all be together.
I think that the relationships of all the cousins might just be what make this family so strong. My son, who is usually surrounded by girly things, feels like he has allies in his male cousins. In the future, these children will know that they have someone who they can lean on when life gets a little rocky and someone to celebrate with when life is happy.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom, whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 6-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca.