An Only Child’s Siblings: Cousins

I love this picture for so many reasons. It was December 29 when it was taken and the girls are in short sleeves and barefoot (gasp!). How many Oklahoma Decembers can our kids frolic in the backyard for hours in warm, sunny weather? Not many, and the key word in that last sentence is: in the backyard. No need for the moms to have a slate of indoor crafts, movies, and board games on the agenda because kids can always come up with their own brand of fun in the backyard. Do we know exactly what they are doing? No. Do we really care? No. So when I look out and see them on the trampoline and they are all wearing beach towels on their heads, I’m thinking it’s all good.

I also love this picture because the Inkwell setting on my IPhone’s Instagram app makes me look like a hipster photographer, which I am not. I just like free, highly-rated apps and this one takes the prize…which it actually did. Best App of the Year.

But my favorite thing about this photo is the reminder – again – that Alison is growing up with little girl cousins left and right. She has these two girls on Kyle’s side of the family, and two other little girls on my side of the family, and so this almost-only-child of mine is surrounded by other little girl cousins. Why is this so important to me? You guessed it. Because I was surrounded by boy cousins. On both sides of my family. Now, don’t misunderstand. I loved it. My boy cousins were funny, creative, great sports, and we never got into cat-fights, pouting, three’s a crowd, whispering, and all the other complicated games that little girls bring into their relationships. I learned to collect hot wheels, watched endless episodes of Star Trek and played it out with correct use of a phaser (yeah, there is a right and wrong way to use this weapon), learned how to watch football and dress the part (I was enamored with helmets and shoulder pads), knew how to accessorize a G.I. Joe (ammo), and, most importantly, learned that when a boy gets frustrated and angry with you, he tells you immediately…in your face…loudly. And then, five seconds later, it’s all okay. I did love my boy cousins. But I was snubbed the few times I brought my Barbies to hang out with G.I. Joe, and the boys definitely did NOT put up with tears. If I got my feelings hurt and worked up some weepiness, they shrugged their shoulders and moved on. They knew I’d get over it. And I did. It was either that or play with my Barbies alone, which for an only child in a house full of cousins would have been sheer torture. I was willing to leave my little-girl self at the door and fully embrace the boy world. Some images from this time are a little disturbing:

Yes, this is me wearing a football helmet and holding what appears to be the most oversized football in the world. I was tiny, but determined to be tough. I doubt the boys next to me are buying it.

I’m hugging my Christmas baby doll. However, this was not the gift I asked for. I asked for the doll sitting between my cousin and I – the Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll. He was my favorite and I spent a LOT of hours with him trying to be his Edgar Bergen. My best guess is that someone insisted I hold the baby doll because clutching Charlie MCarthy with the love and warmth I felt for him would have looked downright weird. But oh, how I loved him, eyepiece and all. Notice the expression on my cousin’s face. He looks weary. He was an only child also, and he got stuck with me for a cousin. I followed him around like a puppy dog, probably begging him to watch my ventriloquist schtick with Charlie.


Boys do NOT like to smile in photos. They like to look tough. I learned how to roll with it.

I did have a little girl cousin eventually, but I was old enough to be jaded by the boys and wasn’t nearly as nice to her as I should have been. She was pretty, petite, and very much a girl, but I had been mostly ruined by G.I. Joe and my obsession with hot wheels, ventriloquism, and football helmets.

So now my almost-an-only child girl (her siblings are 9 and ten years older) has been blessed with four little girl cousins, and they are in heaven together. But it’s not exactly what I would have envisioned. These little girls don’t play dolls and rarely play dress-up with one another. No Barbies and only some occasional nail-painting. They prefer to engage in small businesses start-ups with low overhead. Last month they set up a coffee shop and we had to pay with monopoly money to get tea, lattes, and homemade muffins. This month they sold salt dough crafts for pesos, complete with free string for hanging the ornaments. In addition to their entrepreneurial endeavors, they’ve painted on canvas, had picnics in the playhouse, walked the dogs, had a limbo contest that resulted in a nasty knot on the middle child’s head, and the towel-wearing on the trampoline? They were superheroes. On most days, they came in from outside smelling like rusty tin cans, their hair wild and knotted and their cheeks a combination of rosy red skin and paint smears. I would like to think that times have changed, and that girls are unafraid to take advantage of a wider repertoire of available play options beyond Barbies and baby dolls. Maybe. But I did leave out one detail. Alison’s little girl cousins came along a little later in her life. For most of her young years, here is the cousin who taught her the ropes:

Ahhh…balance. Best of both worlds. She’s in touch with her feminine side, but isn’t afraid to leave it behind when it seems more fun to wear a towel on her head and be the superhero. Here’s to the cousins. Girls AND boys.

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