I recently asked my uncle how he felt when his son was just born. “Were you nervous being a father now? Nervous about having to carry a baby.” He said not really, and then I realised my baby cousin (I was a super excited 7 year old when he was born) is not his first or my aunt’s first baby.
Technically yes, but in reality no.
Back then, aunts and uncles, especially if they had older siblings with kids, often babysat their nieces and nephews.
Often too it wasn’t a nuclear family structure, but a whole village (extended family plus more) under one roof.
My mum was very attached to my two older cousins before I was even conceived. My aunty C to her elder sister’s children too. The bond is so strong. So in actuality my aunt already ‘had’ 2 babies and my uncle 3.
My uncle A, related to me how I would arrive in a bundle on weekdays to my grandma’s house where they all lived and he would push me on the swing when I couldn’t sleep and would feed me too. Those stories warm my heart.
My 3 uncles and youngest aunty figured strongly in my childhood memories as the ones who carried me to see the airplanes in the sky, cuddled me, fed me chocolates and enticed me to go on walks to the nearby shop.
My two elder cousins 13 and 7 years older, doted on me too, so I was very lucky to be so loved. I know I loved them, learnt from them and tried to copy what they did.
I just strongly felt so adored when I was at my grandmother’s house. The minute I entered I was made to feel like a celebrity. My youngest uncle would call out “the kutties (little ones) are here” excitedly in reference to me and my sister. He was so warm and most of us cousins have fond memories.
I totally feel that way about the little ones in my family in turn. Starting with my 6 baby cousins (those 5-15 years younger than me) and now my cousins’ children. (There were many children in between too in my extended family.) I am their biggest fan and they will always be on my pedestal.
Prior to my existence, my mum was very attached to my two older cousins. When I was old enough, she always told me how good they were. How smart M was and how obedient R was.
In my family cousins are very special indeed. Especially with the ‘Two is Enough Campaign’ in Singapore in the 1970’s, it would have been lonely without them.
I will always consider my cousin M as my first baby. I was fascinated as she gripped the finger if 5 year old me tightly and turned her head to look at me. I was transfixed and in love. I was over the moon at the birth of each of my baby cousins. Some people are animal people but I’m very much a baby person.
So I have been particularly drawn to the depictions of the British Royals mainly because they reflect my own big Ceylonese Singaporean family. How close they all are, how cousins were built in playmates and the glue of course being the matriarch, the grandmother.
This is in contrast to my partner and friends who only saw their cousins once or twice a year during Chinese New Year for instance. I think that’s sad.
But having said that, there is only one cousin I know from my father’s side of the family and there are many more in Sri Lanka I haven’t met and to be honest have no desire to as they are strangers to me.
It is really critical how close you are in childhood. It determines your future relationship. It’s why I’m so delighted to see my little nieces having a super close bond with their cousins who happen to be their neighbours as well. I love seeing them all so happy and am so grateful for them.
They might have their own friends later, but no one else will be like their cousin and have those shared family memories.
Yes as the saying goes “It takes a village” and I just love that.