Carolyn Hax: Cousins get more acknowledgement

The Washington PostFebruary 1, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband is the youngest of five kids and our two children are the youngest grandkids of six: 18, 17, 15, 13, 5, 4. Our children’s births and events aren’t similarly acknowledged as were their older cousins’. For example: My son’s birthday hit at the same time as his elder cousin’s graduation. Party and gifts for the latter, no acknowledgement of the former.

I understand the grandparents’ energy is much different at 75 than it was at 62 — and the aunts and uncles are now raising teenagers, who have completely different needs. Should I just not be comparing the treatment of those grandkids who came first? Do I just accept the fact that we’re having a different experience?

UNEQUAL

Yes, exactly. The world is a big place, and your kids’ worlds are bigger than the limited world of their extended family. Where your husband’s family isn’t jumping in with the experiences you were hoping for, you can jump in to give your kids a different experience entirely.

If it helps, people with small or far-flung or deceased families do this all the time. The only difference is that your extended family is right there and therefore seems like an option, which then sets you up for this disappointment you describe. If instead you see family as just a different form of unavailable, then I think you’ll unlock more possibilities as well as pre-empt a lot of the hard feelings — and teach your kids the joy of flexibility versus fixed expectations.

Re: Unequal: We have always turned to our friends and our own sense of festivity to forge traditions around our son’s milestones, given both some mild unequal-response syndrome among hub’s family, and the absence of extended family. My son notices nothing other than his own delight in our own rituals.

If you don’t act like your kids are being deprived, they’ll never know differently.

ANONYMOUS

Amen, thanks.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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