Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cousin Love

My girls, who were so anxious to meet their new cousin a week after she was born, spent their entire first visit obsessed with my sister’s cat toys. They weren’t impressed by the sleeping swaddled baby who seemed oblivious to them, and barely interacted with her at all.

My sister recently came over with her now one-month-old baby for a visit. My niece is much more alert now, looking all around, making those ridiculously sweet grunting and squealing vocalizations, and she stretches with a single-minded joy, arching her narrow back and testing how far she can spread her toes. This time, with the ability to see their cousin’s eyes, feel her grasp, and convince themselves that her baby noises were just for them, my girls were all over her. Literally.

I gave the girls the run-down on the rules several times before my sister arrived: no touching baby’s face or hands, gentle touching of her belly, legs, and feet is okay, and no screaming in the room with her. They listened well and were able to repeat the rules back to me. Then our visitors arrived, and the girls squealed their welcome in ear-piercing tones (waking the sleeping baby), and proceeded to fight over who got to hold her precious hand.

My unflappable sister was her usual jovial self, gently admonishing them without seeming truly alarmed. I can count on one hand the number of first-time moms I’ve met who wouldn’t panic at the sight of two over-stimulated kids bearing down on her newborn. Actually, I can count them on one finger, as my sister is the only one I’ve met.

After the initial enthusiasm wore off, we were able to get the girls to only hold their cousin’s feet with that vice-grip of love. It’s a good approximation of how we all feel about this newest member of our family, the baby that it took a decade of trying for my sister to have. Most of us are better able to restrain ourselves in the baby’s presence, but as I watched my two girls beaming brightly down at the cousin who has just learned to smile and beamed right back at them, I was immensely grateful for the dog-pile of cousin love on my lap. We should all be so lucky, to enter the world with so much loving anticipation, an entire family desperate to meet us, and two adoring cousins gushing with joy at our mere presence.

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