A familial cycle of poor role modeling

Lily Geiser | Staff Writer

I have a lot of cousins.

Well, not a lot. Eight to be exact. Seven on my mom’s side and one on my dad’s. And I’m lucky to be pretty close to all of them. We have family get-togethers, we text each other happy birthday, and with the holidays coming up, I’m pretty much guaranteed to see all of them over the next couple of months. Want to know my guilty secret? They give me a reason to be happy at funerals – one of the few events that everybody goes to.

Lately though, I haven’t been seeing my cousins all too much. The seven on my mom’s side? All in their twenties — old enough to have jobs and relationships, but young enough to not be quite settled down enough for regular visits or phone calls. Those family get-togethers have been pretty empty — maybe one or two of them showing up, but leaving early to hang out with their friends or work or study. 

I really miss the times when they were all in high school, when I was only eight. Whenever I visited one of them, I visited all of them. Three of them even lived with me, each when they were fresh out of college and ready for a change in scenery. 

They all moved out eventually though.

I love my cousins. I look up to them. A lot. When I was young, they were like the cool older siblings I never had. Except I only saw them four or five times a year, so they never got the chance to annoy me too much, despite their best efforts. 

Now that I’m older and the maturity gap between us has lessened, I look up to them for who they are and what they do. One is going back to get his degree — I love that he didn’t give up on that, even if it’s going to be hard. Another moved out to LA to be a photographer — I would never be that brave. I learn a lot from them just by seeing their lives play out, the good and the bad.

Sometimes I get mad at them. It sucks when it feels like they don’t want to see me as much as I want to see them – they’re busy, but so am I, right? It sucks when it feels like they still see me as a little kid, too. I’m not an adult yet, but I can still have an adult conversation. It sucks when I have to learn about their lives from second-hand information, whether that’s my mom or my grandma or my aunt. I wish that we texted more. I wish that we told each other more. I wish that we saw each other more.

It’s easy to forget that I’m someone’s older cousin, too.

My cousin on my dad’s side is younger than me by nearly four years, but I barely pay attention to the age difference. He’s awesome. He plays I-don’t-know-how-many instruments, and he sells beats to rappers (for 99 cents, but hey, it’s still technically a living). 

I don’t see him as much as I want to either — he lives all the way down in Atlanta, so he comes up maybe two or three times a year, if we’re lucky. But when I do see him, I don’t have to share with six other cousins – just with two siblings.

Maybe he looks up to me the same way I look up to my older cousins. But I’m not a role model – how could I be? I’m just some kid living her best life out here in the suburbs. There’s nothing special here. I’m a regular person.

I guess that I could try to talk to him more. I didn’t even have his number saved in my phone until he sent me a happy birthday text a few weeks ago. I’m always so happy when my cousins text me — it means that they were thinking about me. 

But I know that he wouldn’t care as much as I do. Right? And the last time he visited, I barely saw him — but I was too busy. He knew that I wanted to hang out with him. Right? 

He understood that I couldn’t just drop everything as soon as he came up to visit — my life was still going on. Sure, I love hanging out with all of my cousins, but he would rather hang out with my brother and sister than me — they’re much closer to his age than I am. And I guess I don’t really tell him much about my life even when I do see him. But he doesn’t want to know about that. That’s not interesting. He’d rather play video games with my brother than know that I aced my bio exam.

Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe it’s worth finding out.