I sat on a back deck today, while my kids ran around outside and inside and downstairs and in the basement with their cousins and extended cousins.
There was a ‘show’ put on for the adults. There were kid power struggles. There were naps and tears and spills.
There were all the things I had growing up with cousins across the street and down the road.
I watched my two preschoolers interact in the hierarchy of family. The eldest cousin trying to boss the younger cousins, the smallest playing as the ‘baby’ in the ‘pretend family’ they acted out. I watched the boys segregate from the girls and the inclusion and exclusion of all of them at any given time.
I watched my daughter be bossed and then stand up for herself. I watched my son play and laugh with everyone not caring of the politics. I watched as the parents of these cousins sat and drank and laughed and lazily checked in on the kids every so often to make sure no one was lighting anything on fire.
A houseful of adults and these children were, within reason, left to play free of hovering mothers and fathers.
Then, somewhere in between seeing my daughter lead the all-kid band with a ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMAN I WILL NOW SING ABCs’, her rag-tag, caped, fireman hatted, backward princess dress wearing rockers behind her, and my son declaring he wanted to live by his cousins forever, I become profoundly sad.
Sad in a way I have not felt for a very long time.
This does not happen at home.
There are no frequent get-togethers with family and children.
This does not happen in California.
There are no cousins close. There are no family members with kids nearby.
This has not happened in their lives, until now.
To me, you grow up playing with your cousins. Second cousins. Family that is scattered in ages but usually just young enough or just old enough to play ‘with’ you. That is just how you grow up.
It’s not just the ‘playdates’ or ‘park meetups’ or occasional ‘neighbor kid’ that comes to play.
These are constant, chaotic, companions that grow up with you. You always see them at birthdays. You always see them at Christmas. You always see them every other Sunday.
You always see them. Period.
This is going to sound very stupid, but I think the entire ‘midwest’ ‘kids playing in the basement while the adults had a few beers on the back porch’ thing…that really got me.
My kids do not have that. This is the first time in their lives they have experienced cousins.
Broke my heart.
Especially when my son and his second cousin are identical in age and looks and even ears. After a night out parents came home to find the boys in opposite rooms with mom and dad nearly taking home the wrong 5-year old.
Especially when my daughter, upon meeting her cousin from Germany, said ‘Mama she looks like ME!’ And then watching her find the courage to tell her eldest cousin she did NOT want her hair long but short so she could ‘look like Hala, ’cause I AM HALA.’
Especially when I realized despite being anxious to check in on the election and get to a tv in time for a hockey game, it was amazingly nice to let the kids run wild in a basement while I sat and chatted on the back deck.
I miss that.
Even if I now sit on the deck instead of roller skate around the pole downstairs.
I miss that.