My daughter is and forever will be an only child. I try my best to be a replacement, some form of entertainment for her, but as much as I think I am the coolest person in the world and so much fun to be around, my daughter usually doesn’t think that way. And to be honest, I can only pretend to love being a super hero doll that’s missing an arm or leg for so long.
And I get it. She wants a constant companion, that bond typically a brother and sister have. Although she will miss out on the joys and pains of having a sibling, she still has the next best thing: cousins.
Cousins are blood, but friends by choice. They’re closer than friends in some cases, but not too close where they drive you crazy. My daughter has 11 cousins with one on the way. And for her, as an only child, they are basically her brothers and sisters. She evens calls them that. Luckily, my daughter lives close to some of her cousins although some are spread out. Her eyes twinkle with delight when I tell her we are visiting her grandparents and one of her cousins will be there.
“I missed her so much!” my daughter exclaims.
“But honey, you just saw her a few days ago,” I tell her.
With cousins, enough time in between seeing them that they’re eager to see each other instead of dreading it.
It’s that yearning my daughter has to be around other kids that I encourage because I know she doesn’t get that kind of interaction at home. My husband and I play with her, but obviously, it’s not as fun as hanging out with someone your own age.
When my daughter’s school friends are not available, my daughter plays with her cousins, which most of the time she prefers to do. My daughter is one of the older cousins, and she takes pride in showing off how responsible she can be. My daughter picked up a rake at my parent’s house one weekend, and sure enough, her younger cousin followed suit and helped rake up leaves.
Not only do my daughter’s cousins keep her occupied, but they also help her to be more outgoing with children her age. My daughter is not shy, but she needs to warm up to people when she first meets them (like her mommy). And this is especially true with kids around her age. My husband and I have put her in different activities such as ballet, but our daughter still only gravitates toward one or two kids.
My daughter is so used to being around adults that she sometimes acts like one. I remember one time she told me, “Cleaning is hard work. I need to do the dishes.” What normal 6-year-old says that?
My daughter’s cousins have brought out the more adventurous, outgoing, kind and jubilant parts of my daughter. It’s the parts of my daughter not many people get to see.
One of the greatest things about having a cousin is you can enjoy a certain amount of space with them. They’re family, of course, but they aren’t so much like a brother or sister where you feel obligated to do and say things.
I shared a room with my sister for most of my childhood. I hated it. There are times when a kid needs their personal space. When cousins come over to play, you can send them home that same day. You don’t have to share a room with them or worry about them tattling on you. If anything, they are going to help you out with whatever mischievous plan you have.
There are times when I think my daughter understands our family’s situation, that a stork is not coming to our house to drop off a little brother or sister.
I hope that one day my daughter will look back and understand why I had her spend so much time with her cousins and let her know how important they should be to her.
I hope as she gets older that she relies on them as someone her age to talk to when talking to her parents is not desirable. I want her to feel like she has people she is close enough to that she can share her darkest secrets with and feel like herself.
I want her to feel that she is important and special to many people because she is. And she doesn’t need a littler brother or sister to feel that.
I think parents are becoming more realistic about how it takes a lot of time and money to raise a child. As much as another child may fulfill their life, it is just not possible. More parents are understanding that cousins can fill the void only kids have from not having a sibling.
But cousins fill a void for children who have siblings as well. They can help that child escape from their needy or disliked siblings for a short period of time.
I know I will hear about my daughter wanting a little brother or sister for a long time. Just the other night she told me out of the blue, “I want a sister to play with.” I then explained for the millionth time why that is not in the cards for us. I remind her that she has a lot of friends and family who she can play with and that love her unconditionally, just like a sibling would.
Cousins are a comfort, a shoulder to cry on and a person to love and hate all at the same time. Cousins can be there for children throughout each important stage of their lives.
Because ultimately, family means everything, especially cousins.