The idea started easily enough: My brother and his wife and 7-year-old daughter Kelly were coming the 240 miles to our house last May for our daughter Jenna’s high school graduation. We’d be going back their way for a wedding a week later.
What if Kelly stayed for the week? Cousin Camp!
There were mild reservations. Would she get homesick? Could she survive without her parents? Could they survive without her?
But she didn’t, she could and they did. And in the meantime, these cousins had a ball. My teenage kids long ago decided Kelly was one hilarious and adorable little human. They spent the week playing games, making cookies, exploring the creek and pastures, finding a baby deer, rinsing calves, breaking a calf to lead, and sleeping somewhere different every night — including the treehouse.
We tie-dyed T-shirts and socks (obviously; it’s camp) and Kelly was chief assistant to Jenna and her ice cream business. They spent one day dreaming up flavors like blueberry cheesecake, after-dinner mint, chocolate lovers and more. Then they turned all those flavors into ice cream, and the chief assistant became the chief taste tester. Kelly recommends the blueberry cheesecake.
Two cousins, just living their best lives.
The whole thing made me realize: You don’t have to live next door to cultivate these kinds of relationships. My kids have been lucky to live within 10 miles of the six cousins on my husband’s side of the family. As for my side, I hate that we live so far apart, but gosh, if they don’t make the most of the time we have together. When we were down at Thanksgiving, Kelly came and stayed with the cousins, piling into one room together, different bodies in the bed every time I looked, teasing, playing practical jokes (feel bad for Nathan, the lone boy in this equation). During the state fair and beef expo every year, they come hang out with us.
There’s something extra-special about these teenage-little kid relationships, too. Off at college, Jenna regularly gets videos from another young cousin through an app called Marco Polo. I hear the college girls gather ‘round to watch them. And why not? They’re just that fun.
Maybe I’m a little extra sentimental about this whole cousin thing because I never had any. And I see every single day how those relationships enrich my kids’ lives and development and influence their thinking.
They’re relationships worth cultivating, no matter the miles.
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