17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Connecting With Cousins

The other day, one of my sisters emailed out pictures from my youngest sister's baby shower. I was admiring a picture of a cute 8-month old boy and wondering who he belonged to. It suddenly occurred to me that this little stranger was my nephew....a child I have seen only once months earlier on a short visit home. I was in tears to realize that a year of this little guy's life was almost gone and I only knew him through pictures and conversations with my sister.

In my family, there will soon be six cousins under the age of four. My Asher has a cousin just a couple of weeks younger than him (pictured above....they get along great so far!). We are spread between the East Coast, Utah, and Portland. I also know that I am most probably done having children (a whole other post) and the hardest part about that for me is knowing my two boys won't experience the lessons and joys inherent in growing up surrounded by siblings. I desperately want their cousins to fill this void. I want them to have real and close relationships with them rather than the "holiday relationships" that I had with my own cousins growing up. And I have no idea how to accomplish this with our geographic limitations.
Do any of you share the circumstance of living away from family and struggling to connect with your siblings and their kids? Have you found successful ways for your kids to form long-distance connections with their cousins? So far I have...
....made picture books from cheap photo albums labeling family members in a fun way. I've also made photo albums from our trips home that narrate the trip in a way that my kids can remember specific events spent with my family. Both of my boys love these books. I feel like they know their grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins well from looking at these pictures.

....decided that as soon as they are old enough to read and type, I will get them their own email addresses so they can become pen pals with their cousins.

....started thinking about swapping weeks with the cousins during the summer. My brothers and sisters are receptive to this idea. I imagine flying the boys out to Portland for a couple weeks of soccer camp or other activities and then flying some cousins out for a couple weeks in DC for historical sightseeing, etc. I am excited about this prospect and think they could be really memorable trips for the kids.

And....that's about as far as I've figured things out.

Once again, I would really appreciate hearing some of your own ideas and experiences on this topic.


  • Jen - thank you, thank you for this post. This is something I think about ALL the time b/c I am the one who lives far away, and all my sisters and parents live close to eachother. I am eager to read the responses and I like what you have written so far. I, too, have lots of photographs of family around, and T has a photo book filled with pictures of cousins and grandparents that he loves to look thru.

    My SIL has four kids and I've always been impressed by how excited they are to see us and play with us, even though we live a few states away and probably only see them once a year. From what a I can tell she and her husband talk about family all the time ("Adam & Beth are doing this or that; your cousin Tyler just took his first step, etc.) I definitely want to make sure I talk about family all the time and involve my kids in that. Making sure we send birthday cards or care packages to family far away would be fun, too. Just some ideas.
    posted by Anonymous Beth at 6/25/2007 02:29:00 PM  

  • Actually, Beth...that gives me a really good idea...getting the kids involved in putting together care packages and birthday gift shopping for the cousins instead of me doing everything by myself without their knowledge (which is what happens now). thanks!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 6/25/2007 02:59:00 PM  

  • I'm also in a similar situation but instead of being states away, I am halfway around the world (I live in New Zealand, my family in Canada). I love the idea of picture books of family members. I wish I could do the swap for summer but the whole northern vs. southern hemisphere plus expense kills that. I have found that using Skype with a webcam is great! My son is only 4 months but I call my parents weekly, (who also have Skype so it's free, only paying for broadband internet), and they can see him and babble at him. I'm just working on my brothers getting it so our kids can look and talk with each other. I'll be interested to see if anyone else has any more ideas.
    posted by Anonymous Monique at 6/25/2007 03:00:00 PM  

  • I think there is a lot of us in this situation. I have a brother that live nearby going to school, but all my kids cousins are in another state close to my parents. It's sometimes hard to hear about the fun they are having and feel like I'm missing out and so are my kids. Something we have done several time since my siblings and I have gotten married and had kids, it we've chosen a vacation spot, this is usually the Oregon Coast, farther for us and a little more expensive, but we love it. Then we rent a house where all of us can stay together for a week or so. We get to be with each other 24/7. Not like when we go visit because we stay with my parents and then my brother and his family come over on occasions. It's also nice because the cousins get to be together, but has an advantage of flying them out and just the kids being together. This way you have a more even number to kid to parent ratio and everyone chips in when needed, it works out great and give us adults an opportunity to bond and reconnect. So if you don't live half way around the world and can do this I would suggest that.
    posted by Blogger Erin at 6/25/2007 04:10:00 PM  

  • I hear ya. I have 60ish cousins and wound up being really close to 2 and somewhat close to another 2--the rest more like acquaintances. My family lived in Oregon--most of my Mom's other sibilings were all in Utah. I really cherish my closest cousin relationships and hope for the same, and better, for my kids. But like you, we live far from them.

    One thing I do is when my sisters email pics of their families I make sure my kids see them before I "archive" them deep in email cyberspace. It may seem simple/obvious to do, but normally I'd just want to delete and keep my desktop clean!

    I also offer for the kids to write letters, draw pictures, etc. to cousins when they're looking for something to do. We did that a while ago and it was so out of the blue the recipients thought it was so cool. It gives them a little connection next time they meet.

    I think meeting in non-holiday rushes is awesome.

    We call grandparents (and could do cousins) with fun little things--losing a tooth, being potty trained, read my first chapter book, etc. Grandma and Grandpa love that.

    I have a brother in law in Iraq and we pray for him a lot. The kids hearing/saying his name is helping them just identify him, his wife, the kids. Keep in mind, they have so many cousins to keep track of (twenty-something) that every little name-face or name-event recognition helps!

    Also, I keep a baggie of family/friend christmas card photos in the diaper bag (mostly as a quiet church activity). These are fun to pull out and look at--a way for kids to see faces and remember names often.

    Ok, I look at this list and they are so simple--I hope it's not just a "duh!" list! I figure the small and simple things add up and really work!
    posted by Blogger Katie at 6/26/2007 07:00:00 AM  

  • We are in the same boat.

    We have made picture books with cousins, and we also have a family blog. Right now, only the siblings use it to communicate (we are spread from CA to VA and in between), but the grandkids are starting to use it, too, so hopefully as cousins get older, everybody will be invovled (if blogs last that long!)

    But it's hard living away from family, and the bottom line is that we all use most of the vacation we have to travel to see each other in the summer. That's the best we can do, I guess.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 6/26/2007 12:54:00 PM  

  • Cousins in my family have always been close (and I include myself in the cousin category even though I am actually their aunt - you know how weird big mormon families can get relationship-wise). But, we also lived within about 2 hours of each other.

    My mom planned summer swaps just like you talked about. I loved those times so much.

    Other than that, we always saw each other during the summer at our big family camping trip - which was great for bonding because we were together 24 hours a day for 4 days.
    And then we saw each other at Christmastime - which was only for one crazy day.

    There is something really great about cousins. Even though my girls see their cousins maybe 2 or 3 times a year, they can't stop talking about them in between our visits and can't wait until we see them again.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/27/2007 08:37:00 AM  

  • We just got back from a really fun family reunion so I am high on extended family relationships right now. It was my first reunion with a child of my own and I was blown away by how the cousins were so nice to my son and how much I enjoyed watching him interact with them.
    I appreciate this post and everyone's comments. so far. There are some great ideas.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 6/27/2007 11:03:00 AM  

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