This past weekend my kids and I spent camping and trout fishing in southern Minnesota. It is positively gorgeous country down there, near Lanesboro and Preston. Rolling hills, farmlands and lots of rivers, creeks and streams. I had heard from a couple of people that the area was beautiful and they weren't kidding. Not as breathtaking as Colorado, but pretty dang nice for being only 4.5 hours away.
One of the best parts about all of our road trips is watching my kids have fun with their cousins. Being out of state, we only see them about 3-4 times a year, so our kids make it a point to maximize the time they have with their cousins. Sarah and Alison are close in age so pal around together, as do Ben and Hunter and Mandy and Jocelyn. Since the kids were young, we would stay with Alison and Mandy's parents when we travelled to Minnesota, so they kids have been together since they were babies. Despite the distance, they have remained close.
Our kids grew up fishing together. They've fished for sunfish in Hackensack, (Right) walleye in the BWCA, trout in South Dakota, bass in Pennsylvania, and muskie in Mercer. They've fished in spring, summer, fall and even ice fished together. Not all of them are crazy about it, but most really like it and give it a shot nonetheless. It is a common bond between all of them and they all have their favorite fish story.
The added benefit our kids get is that they have cousins who are much older than them that they have become very close to as well. They look up to them as adults, yet can relate as cousins at a kid level too. We are lucky to have them as good role models for our kids and show them that they will be there for them as our kids traverse the same waters that they did. (Below).
Cousins are a weird deal really. Everyone has some good cousins, some favorite cousins, and usually a couple of weird cousins too. They're like rental-siblings. You can give them back after a day or two when you're tired of them or just not getting along. Real siblings, of course, you're stuck with for life, and it usually turns out to be a good thing.
Cousin relationships however, usually require a couple of things. First of all the parents of each must get along, to insure that the kids get the chance to get together. Second, ages should be close together and it's always nice, though not required, to have some of the same gender close in age. If you have both of those criteria, getting together with your siblings (at the aunt/uncle level) can be a much easier experience. Send the kids off to play and you can actually have an adult conversation without having kids hanging around saying how bored they are. It's a win/win situation.
One of the places I feel like I got to really get to know some of my St. Cloud cousins was the Landwehr Hunt in 2006. (Above) I (re) met my cousins Bobby (Coe), Don and Jack. It turns out they are great sources of history about my Dad's side of the family as well as rockin' fun people. I still keep in touch with them, now more than ever, and they feel like real family again.
On Mom's side of the family I feel much closer. Though my cousins on that side are all women, they lived much closer, so we got to know them very well. They had a house on a small lake near White Bear Lake and every summer we would go spend a week there. Some of my best childhood fishing memories are of fishing on the dock at Tally's with my cousin Lori and my brothers. Tom did the same with a couple of the older girls. Typically we would return the favor and have one or more of them stay at our house in the city for a week. It was a good arrangement on both ends.
As I said, cousins are a weird deal. A weird, beautiful deal. See them in bits and chunks, laugh hard, fight a little even, then say goodbye until next time. It's grounds for a perfect relationship. Cousins rock the house.