Cousins do count

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girls playing

A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.

I have been thinking an awful lot about family lately. On the day our grandpa died, my cousins and I descended on the home of my grandparents. Ostensibly, we gathered to comfort our newly widowed grandmother. Really, we gathered to comfort ourselves.

Grow

As we sat together in chairs scattered around the kitchen, the funeral director providing somber instruction, my two cousins and I began to get a case of the giggles. As we whispered to each other, our mothers shot us the look. Every mother has it. It is the look that made us sit up straighter and try to behave.

Telling the story later I straight-faced said “the adults corrected us.” Keep in mind that I am an adult with grown children of my own, and I still refer to my mother, aunt and grandmother as “the adults.” My equally grown cousins agree with me. Get us together and we feel like kids again. We always look for the adultier adults.

Cousins are awesome

I mean mine are. I can’t speak for yours. I always feel sad for people who aren’t close to cousins. It seems an awful loss. Cousins are often the first friends we have as children. No one will understand your crazy family like your cousins do.

Cousins count because they are the bad influence your parents can’t forbid you to see. What are they gonna do? Cancel Christmas? Of course my best friend, cousin and partner and crime have been friends for so long we have no idea which one of us is actually the bad influence. We each claim it’s the other one.

Speaking of which, even the black sheep cousins can be fun. We may not always understand their specific kind of crazy, but we admire the heck out of their commitment to it.

Friends by choice

Cousins by blood can become friends by choice. Why not? A cousin is someone who knows all about you AND your crazy family — and loves you anyway.

Cousins are built-in friends when you are at family functions. Honestly who else is going to take part in shenanigans, add their own ridiculousness for good measure and still not tattle on you?

Even if the jig is up, if your family is decent-sized, there are too many cousins for the parents to discipline all at once. If you’re lucky the adults are outnumbered.

Having cousins around during times of stress and loss is so helpful. They prop, tease, laugh and help us hold our memories together. We strengthen them through repetition and tradition.

When I think back on all our years together, I realize we didn’t know we were making lasting memories. We just thought we were having fun.

If you have petty disagreements, you are likely to heal and move forward. You’re probably going to see each other at gatherings and holidays so you may as well just go ahead and get over it. They also tend to hone a healthy sense of humor. Without cousins who would teach you to snipe hunt?

Practice

In the case of younger cousins, they are sometimes practice for your own children. My own younger cousins did that for me.

Whether you do or don’t have siblings, cousins are the front line in familial peers. My cousins were absolutely essential for adding flair to my growing up as an only child. I cannot imagine life without them then or now.

The other day — a sad one — I looked around the room at the people who felt what I felt. Who understood my loss. I realized these are the moments and the people who make life worth living. These are my people. This is my tribe. We may grow in different directions but our roots remain as one.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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