When I was growing up, I was always incredibly jealous of friends who would return from summer vacations with stories chock full of family reunions, particularly playing with their cousins.
From the stories I heard while in elementary school, cousins are the source of all kinds of invaluable information. My friends learned about bras and makeup and boys from their older cousins, and apparently spent endless hours playing hilarious pranks on their various family members aided by these cousins.
I grew up knowing that I had a couple of cousins. I think all my cousins were well into their 20s by the time I was born. I had siblings, and we certainly had a great time growing up, but my stories never seemed quite as thrilling as those who had spent their summer with cousins.
Plus, we really only played pranks on each other, and going crying to Mom loses its thrill when that Mom is Mom to everyone.
Once I grew up and had a child of my own, my youngest aunt started having children around the same time. Now, if we're going to be super-exact about this, those children are literally my cousins, but for all intents and purposes they are my son's.
They're his age, around his size, and can appreciate potty humor in a way that other generations could never begin to understand.
My son, Silas, is just a couple days away from his 9th birthday.
He just came back from a weeklong vacation with his grandma to see his "cousins" in Napa and San Francisco. I also think a week in Napa and San Francisco sounds fantastic, but I had to be a sad, cousin-less, grown-up and stay behind to work.
You know, that job thing where I try to convince my child and the world at-large that I am actually a responsible, bill-paying adult. Some days I'm more successful at creating this illusion than others.
Silas came back from his vacation bubbling over with excitement.
He had stories of the weather being warm enough that he and his cousins ventured into the ocean. He caught fish with nets and met the various household pets (I had to adamantly assure Silas that there is absolutely no way that we can have pet rabbits like his cousins do). They jumped on the trampoline, watched movies, and Silas also got to sample some exotic cuisines, namely Cocoa Puffs.
Silas' only heartbreak during the trip happened while at the Exploratorium, a hands-on children's museum in San Francisco.
I'd hoped he had suddenly become sad because he was missing his mother so much and was wishing he was home with me, but no, he didn't waste his summer vacation worrying about me. But Silas was upset because his cousins both got to have cookies as an afternoon snack, and Silas, sadly lactose intolerant, did not get to have one.
I understand that to a (almost) 9-year-old this is probably the biggest injustice in the world, to have to sit quietly by while watching other people eat delicious, dairy-filled treats.
I feel the same way when I go out to eat, no matter what I order. I just spend my meal time jealous of what other people have gotten.
Plus, there are days when I really want ice cream, or milk-contaminated chocolate cookies, but I have to steer clear of them, in solidarity with my child.
What Silas doesn't understand is that while he might be missing out on a cookie or two, he doesn't have to miss out on something even bigger and more important — cousins.
Zoe Abel has a life filled with siblings, cousins and "cousins." She is incredibly thankful for all the family that her son, Silas, has in his life. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.