Cousins are cool

BONDING WITH A COUSIN Relatives are scattered across the world and occasions to meet them are becoming increasingly rare  

The other day in the car, my parents and I got counting. My mom and dad each have 30 to 40 first cousins. Their second cousins are, needless to say, innumerable (just thinking it through made our heads spin). I have just 10 first cousins, but over 100 second cousins.

My daughter has two first cousins, and eight second cousins. That number will grow, certainly, but not by a whole lot (barring the unlikely event of one of our siblings/cousins deciding to have a huge litter).

This is the reality of our urban, cosmopolitan lives. Our families are getting smaller across the board, and even as they shrink, they’re scattering to the winds. Not one of my daughter’s cousins is in India, let alone in Chennai. For my parents, growing up around cousins was the norm. For me, visiting cousins every summer was the norm. For my toddler, until this year, cousins were essentially an abstract construct. She knew they existed. She’d seen their pictures. She knew their names. She’d even — for the few seconds that the kids on both ends stayed still — said hi to them on Skype. But, sad as it sounds, Dora the Explorer’s cousin Diego, and Peppa Pig’s cousin Chloe were more real to her than her own.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago, when her two “big cousins” came to visit from the U.S. The last time they visited, she was still an infant, so this was to be their first ‘proper’ meeting. Excitement was high on all sides, including parents and grandparents, and even their great grandma was pumped about the momentous day. Naturally, as with all such things, the first meeting was a bit of a bust. In spite of all the ‘Yay! They’re your cool big cousins!’ prep my daughter had been given for days beforehand, she didn’t take to them instantly. She decided to hide behind my dress and act coy instead, so any attempt at commemorating the day with group photos was a bit of a loss.

But the younger of the two guys was persistent, and by the end of the day, he’d won his little cuz over. In fact, the winning over was so complete that for the rest of their stay in India, she attached herself to him like a limpet. Group photos were no longer a problem — as long as she could hold her anna’s hand or sit on his lap. Most mornings began with the question, “Where’s anna?” or “Can I go play with anna?”, and our camera is filled with pictures of her sitting/lying/tumbling on top of him, activities which her usually feisty anna tolerated with touching patience. With her older anna, the winning over was more gradual, as befitted his quieter personality, but no less complete. There are few things cuter than seeing your toddler learning to play (and cheat at) ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ from her studious 13-year-old cousin.

All of which made me realise that some things don’t change. It doesn’t matter that families are smaller or more scattered than they used to be, or that kids get to see their cousins less frequently. Romping with your cousins is still a special sort of fun, the kind of fun that becomes the bedrock of your memories as you get older. If we make the effort, these relationships can still be ones that matter.

Of course, her cousins will be heading back to the U.S. soon, and it might be a couple of years before they all get to meet again. But they are no longer an abstract concept to her, and now, when we attempt Skype sessions with them, we’ll (hopefully) meet with more success (a lot can happen over Skype, but that’s the subject for another column). The number of cousins may not be as impressive as a generation or two ago, but with technology and a bit of perseverance, these kids can build some pretty impressive memories of their own.


* Technology — whether it’s Skype, social networks, or online photo and video sharing — is your friend.

* Setting aside time for those old-fashioned holidays/trips to visit family is a good thing.

* Teach kids to value these relationships — cousins really can be cool!

Divya Kumar is a freelance journalist and stay-at-home mom. When she's not hanging out with her two-year-old daughter, she can usually be found writing and posting about her online

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 12:10:40 AM |

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