Nearly a decade ago, my husband and I were trying to decide where we wanted to raise our family. We were living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the time . . . and we loved it. Having spent my entire life in the Midwest, I could not believe that I lived in a place where I could drive an hour to the Blue Ridge Mountains or three hours to the Coast. We loved the mild winters and felt connected to the community after living there for five years.
However, when the job offer from Omaha arrived, my husband and I felt pulled back to our Midwestern roots. We wanted our kids to know our families — not to just see them once or twice a year. At the time, we were thinking mainly about our parents, our kids’ grandparents. I only have one younger sister; she was also living in Omaha with her husband and expecting their first son. I remember thinking that it’d be fun for us to hang out together with our kids. But, the biggest bonus wasn’t even on my radar: cousins.
This past week, I took my youngest son and his four-year-old cousin (AKA best friend) to the Children’s Museum. As I watched them laugh, run and hug each other spontaneously, it occurred to me that cousins offer all of the best things about family: love, loyalty, unconditional acceptance, friendship and fun with none of the issues that can darken sibling relationships: fighting, jealousy, competitiveness or just button-pushing in general.
This pure, genuine love extends to our cousins who live outside Omaha, too. While I love our adult relatives, it is the kids who turn every family event into a full-blown party. The anticipation of a road trip to Des Moines carries the same level of excitement as a trip to Disney World! If you’ve grown up with family nearby, this probably seems incredibly obvious. But for me, I am grateful for this unintentional gift to my kids; it is one of our family’s greatest blessings.