PARENTING TODAY: Connecting with cousins brings joy to families

Who would have thought it would be about my teeth?

But from the moment a photo of me entered my cousin’s home, it was my teeth they talked about.

You see, my cousin’s son, Darren has different-looking teeth from his sisters. The whole time he was growing up his family speculated about those teeth of his. Where did they come from?

And now they knew, they came from me.

More than 15 years ago I decided it was time to find my cousins. My parents died when I was a child and I went to live with my dad’s family. This meant that I lost track of my maternal relatives.

One cousin had grown up in the Toronto area. On a business trip to Toronto I found myself reading the Star and noticed a special program they were planning. They would print a number of personal ads from people looking for family members. So I signed on.

All I had was her maiden name, a cute nickname and her age. Well, to make a long story short, a few short weeks later my phone here in Metro Vancouver rang and there she was. “Hi Kathy, I understand you’ve been looking for me.”

A friend of hers and a teacher from her elementary school days both recognized the nickname and called her.

By chance, in a couple of months, I was going to attend a conference near her home. So I was able to organize a marvelous reunion with a cousin I hadn’t seen in more than 30 years.

Darren is her son. He’s the one with my teeth. (P.S. She’s a dental hygienist which explains why she would notice my teeth!).

At about the same time I found another cousin. This one just took many phone calls. Shortly thereafter he and his family came for a visit and it wasn’t strangers coming to visit, it was family. Interestingly enough his children just settled right in because they understand I’m part of the family.

We’re connected.

Cousins are a real boon to our children. They say they’re like siblings without the rivalry. They share our history and they are part of us forever. They may look like us or have our teeth.

Cousins become our children’s friends who will always be there. Our children’s siblings and cousins are the next generation and when they have each other to count on, they will be more secure, happier and connected.

Cousins are special. They bring an interesting combination of different life experiences within the same family.

A child may gain from them a better understanding of their own parents.

When they share family stories they will see the emerging family patterns. When cousins are telling stories you will often hear, “Oh, now I understand why my dad does that, it’s a family thing!” They see themselves as something bigger than themselves, as part of a larger group with shared behaviours.

They get a different perspective on family history. They share grandparents.

If at all possible give your kids the gift of cousins. Let their generation become connected through visits, email, Skype, fax, phone and even old-fashioned letters.

My cousins and I had a lot of time to make up but we are now connected and close and it’s a wonderful addition to my life.


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