“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” -Micheal J. Fox
This week has been a saturation of grandparents and cousins. We live far away from family so having the chance to spend so much time with them is a joy. Watching the boys build their bonds with family is heart warming. It also makes my heart ache to know that they only get this opportunity a handful of times a year rather than on a regular basis. Busy work schedules and expensive travel costs have kept me away from meeting my nephew (2 years old) and niece (8 months old) until this week. So this was the first time my kids and my brother’s kids have met! We tried to make up for lost time by spending a lot of time just playing in the back yard and letting the kids be kids! Southern style, no less.
The bond that I shared with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins as a child is very different from what my boys will know. I grew up right down the road from both my grandparents and a close drive from many of my cousins. Spending time with them was a weekly or even daily event. My babysitters were often grandmothers. My playmates were cousins. Family was everywhere; all the time. Extended families of today are often more scattered than they were in generations of the past. Baby Boomers were more inclined to settle down a few miles away from home instead of striking out as my generation has done. My family follows that trend. My boys are growing up in the age of technology relationships.
Most of grandparent and cousin interaction takes place through FaceTime and Photo Streams. We have found ways to be creative with these technology based relationships. Grandparents have story time with the kids or virtually attend birthday parties over FaceTime. We can see what cousins are up to through daily pictures and videos shared on our family’s Photo Stream. Despite all this effort, I know based on my childhood experience with extended family in my every day life, my boys relationships will never compare. The location of everyone is not likely to change and so we make the best of the time we have together. What I do see in their relationships that speaks to the magic of family, is that after months and months of not seeing each other, when the boys see their grandparents, they can pick up right where they left off. Their love for each other is so apparent and strong.
Given our time with family is short, the days are action packed. We find a way to squeeze in tons of outings and activities over the course of a few short days. We had the opportunity to explore a farmstead and goat creamery. It was a bit of a drive down a long, red dirt road but it was a beautiful day at the farm. Our family was given a private tour and we were shown the ins and outs of farm life. We learned about everything from raising goats and milking goats to the making of the cheese. The cousins enjoyed walking among the chickens, investigating their eggs, petting the baby goats, and saying hello to the mooooo cows. We finished off our farm tour by having a taste test of their amazing flavored goat cheese spreads and pickled vegetables.
After our morning on the farm and the tagging out of one set of grandparents for another, we spent the afternoon at a park where the cousins could run, climb, and explore. Big Brother discovered the balls of a Sweetgum tree were perfect for throwing into the nearby creek. Little One and his cousin are within three months of each other. They were getting to know each other, as best as toddlers can. Little One hasn’t had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with peers. He has a few neighborhood friends we see from time to time, but compared to Big Brother at this age, his social life is drastically different. Sometimes that gives me guilt, but then I remind myself of the enriched life of being a little brother has to offer. I loved watching Little One and his cousin play together. They have had these moments every now and then when I have seen them look at each other and it felt as though they are thinking, “Hey, man. I think you get me.” The two little ones enjoyed calling “here fishy-fishy” while perched on the rocks near the creek (though truth be told, I don’t think there were many, if any, fish to be called). I was pleased to soak up the sun and continued southern springtime bliss and not think about the mid-30s forecast that we will be return home to in a few days. I’m afraid that might be a tough transition. Maybe I can hold all this warmth inside and have it help get me through the next month-ish until we thaw out back home.
The southern grandparent tour has been a success. They boys have loved the carefree, barefoot days. Our family has had the opportunity to slow down and enjoy our days together without obligations pulling us away from each other. And though traveling for ten days can wear you down some and sleep may not always be perfect…we have loved our adventure and carry home with us a collection of loving memories.