In praise of cousins

3 children, growing up, and having their first child within a year of each other.

What used to be a useful source of hand me downs is now a valuable source of life experiences and validation.

My eldest daughter (lets call her ZebraSquid) is so unlike her cousins, I was worried they wouldn’t get on when we met them for Christmas. One cousin had a Facebook page of beautifully curated friend shots. The other one loved to street dance. They both were very skilled at make up, and posted scarily glossy photos of themselves and their equally glossy friends. Basically, on paper, they were girls that she would never normally choose to speak to, let alone to make friends with and hang out with.

We got there for Christmas, ZebraSquid froze in the doorway of the living room: the aunties, the uncles, the snack being passed around, the enforced hugging. When I next looked, she’d melted away. I trusted that as a teenager, she would be safe left to her own devices for a while, but after 3 hours I went hunting for her. I found her curled up in her cousins bed, both of them sureptitiously watching ’13 reasons why’, ignoring the party. Might not have been my choice of viewing matter, but there was a peacefulness about them.

The next day ZebraSquid was again ‘missing’. Appearing for meals under duress, but otherwise claiming asylum under her cousins duvet. I’d check on her occasionally and find her incongruously tucked in between all the girly detritus of straighteners and lipsticks that she’d normally never be seen near.

The third day her cousin had to meet her friends. Two girls appeared in the doorway. One of them with shaped eyebrows, hair blow dried to a soft wave, perfect powdered skin and a cheeky pinch of lipstick. Skinny jeans and a satin bomber jacket. The other had four day greasy hair, a spot on her nose and a thrash metal band T-shirt. They were going out, together, to meet the glossy people. And it was lovely. ZebraSquid didn’t speak the entire afternoon apparently (of course she didn’t), but her cousin made sure that she was made welcome. ZebraSquid saw that under the powder and beeswax, the glossies were also funny and insecure and ambitious and complicated.

I love that the cousin bond built in childhood gives her a pass and a chaperone into a world that she’d otherwise be scared of.

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