The Inception of a New Tradition
Imagine a house full of kids, laughing and playing and having a good time. But the house doesn’t look like a big family lives here. The children are familiar with each other, yet they are not quite like brothers and sisters. Then it becomes clear. They are cousins. And they are at grandma’s and grandpa’s house – free of their parents tyrannical rules and regulations. Free to be. That is the vision which gave birth to the new tradition of Cousins day in our family. On Christmas day, each of my children got an envelope with the following invitation.
You are cordially invited to participate in the new tradition of
Cousins Day will be happening once a month, on the third Sunday, at Oma Marianne and Opa Mike’s house. All cousins are invited to come and play and do all kinds of fun things. Cousins Day will start Sunday morning, but if and when any of the cousins feel ready to spend the night, they are welcome to arrive on Saturday.
Uncles are welcome to attend all day or however much time they wish.
Parents are welcome to drop their children off, and are asked to leave as soon as possible after that. However, they are invited to return in the late afternoon to hang out and enjoy a meal prepared by the cousins with some help of the Omas and Opas.
Uncles are hopefully showing up latest in the late afternoon to eat and all that.
Participation is of course voluntary, but highly recommended.
Oma is German for Grandma, Opa for Grandpa and in our family, there is only an uncle without children of his own.
Thoughts on Gift Giving
Actually, a bit more thought went into the creation of this new tradition. In previous podcasts, we talked a lot about reducing our environmental foot print and the perils of overconsumption. During the holiday season, even the most conscious person is in peril of indulging or rather overindulging just a bit in buying more than is needed – especially if kids are involved.
On the whole, you may call me the Scrooge of toy buying. I think that kids have way too many toys and way, way too many of which require batteries and have just one function. A ball, a stick and a hoop is all what is really needed. Add unlimited access to nature, lots of art supplies, permission and encouragement to participate in daily activities like cooking, cleaning and gardening, and those toys just sit on a shelf collecting dust.
Parents usually do buy these toys to try to create some space for themselves. Keep the kids busy with something. Again, my opinion, I think that parents have a huge task to fulfill raising kids in the now typical family setting: parents, children. Thats it. No live-in grandpa and grandma, no aunts, uncles, cousins or other relatives living in the same house or at least close by. Many of us don’t even know our neighbors, let alone trust them for any amount of time with our kids.
For me, that was certainly true while my children were little. My family lived on a different continent and my husband’s not only a few hours away, but his parents were both employed and wanted and needed to spend their weekends taking care of themselves. That left me virtually alone with three small children to take care of. Of course, I made friends and got involved in groups centering mostly around child related activities. Some of those friends and I exchanged babysitting. But those precious hours of freedom came with the price of caring for 7 or 8 children when it was the friend’s turn to get some alone time.
Remembering how much I was craving to have a bit of alone time, how much I was wishing that my nice neighbors would offer once in a while to take the kids, even just for half an hour, helped the inception of this new tradition. Also reflecting on the many times that little bit of space would have helped me to be a much more patient mother formulated the plan. Finally, there are times I wonder if my ex-husband, the father of my kids, and I would have had some stress free time together, if we could have worked it out – or at least had a better time together while the marriage lasted.
All of that happened a long time ago, and all the guessing in the world of what could have been is pointless – I am at peace with the past. But my children are young parents right now. Young parents juggling to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities to live in in the US, to be good parents to their children, to be part of a couple and to still keep hold of being an individual. Not an easy task and many young families are sharing in this experience.
Choosing the Gift of Cousins Day
While I was contemplating what gift to give to my children which is not a burden on the environment, is within my means, and makes a positive impact on their lives, the tradition of Cousins Day was born. Once a month, they now can count on at least one whole day to do what they wish and as the little ones get older, this might turn into a weekend. Good for them! I, on the other hand, get to hang out with my grandchildren on a regular basis. We get to play and have fun and treat this day as a vacation for all. The best part is a dinner with everybody to close the day/weekend. Family connection by design and on the schedule – a must in our busy times.
Part of me would love to do the same for every young couple or single mom out there to make life a bit easier, but maybe this article will inspire some of you Grandparents to start a tradition like this of your own. Actually, you don’t even have to be a grandparent, or have children. “Families” are what we create. Maybe we take Italy’s example where young families started to adopt a grandparent in lieu of having one of their own.