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The Cousins Are Her Oyster, And Maddie's Got an Appetite

If there’s one thing this extended
“vacation” has given us, it’s a chance for Maddie
to spend more time with her family. Madeleine’s always been a
social person – she loves to play with others on the
playground and will spot a new persons and say, “I wonder if
she’d want to play with me”- but she’s not had so
much time around so many kids who, frankly, find Madeleine almost
as fascinating as she finds herself.

Maddie’s the youngest of the twelve cousins (except for Cora,
of course), with the next nearest being a year older and the oldest
right around 19. And since she’s not around most of the year,
she’s fresh entertainment to the other kids, so they all love
hanging around with her. But as much as they enjoy her company,
Maddie is in ecstasy in theirs.

Madeleine’s quickly developing a
mild case of hero worship around the next-youngest girl, who is a
good six years older, but pretty much any cousin will do. The boys
draw pictures of Elmo for her, the girls carry her around and push
her on the swing – what’s a two-year-old to do first?

Just yesterday we arrived at Nana and Papa’s house to find a
teenaged cousin and an aunt already there. “Maddie, what
would you like to do first?” I asked, gesturing at all the
“new” toys (including an original Sesame Street playset
from my husband’s childhood) from which my daughter could

“Um, I want to go outside and I want . . . Brittany to play
with me,” she said decisively. The ninth-grader
good-naturedly got up and chased her outside, much to
Maddie’s delight.

No matter who is around, Madeleine’s guaranteed both an
audience for her antics and entertainment for her amusement. I
watch her come upon her cousins working a puzzle and she falls on
it with squeals of delight – no shyness or hesitation,
trusting that the boys will move over and include her. And you know
what? They do.

I’m not saying Maddie doesn’t have friends back home;
she has her best friend Naomi who would follow her anywhere, and
her favorites in the church nursery who cheer when she walks in the
door. But in this gathering of older cousins she finds an
unconditional acceptance, and she feasts hungrily on that sense of
belonging, of total immersion in a group who expects to like you
and isn’t disappointed.

Everyone in my husband’s family loves my kid because
she’s an amazing, exceptional child whom only a heart of
stone would be unmoved by. But even if she weren’t the
coolest kid on the block (not that I’m biased), David would
still draw her Elmo pictures. John would still shut the piano when
Maddie naps. And Brit would still get up off the floor to help her
on the rope swing.

Family: It does a body good.


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