After our glorious week full of cousins and watching small children ham it up for a captive audience of adults, Lil E and I headed out to Virginia for more of it. When I planned the trip, it was with some trepidation -- we see each other so few times a year and I thought those visits should be spaced out a bit more. But it actually worked out perfectly, making our goodbye into a "see you in a few days," and making both weeks feel less pressing to pack it all in.
Lil E and I always stay at the same place when we visit my brother and his family. It's a few short miles away from their home, with a stretch of chain restaurants and big-box stores in between. It is a suite-style hotel and there's room enough for E to sleep while I stay up to commune with the Real Housewives. There's a pool and an adequate continental breakfast and it's all within budget.
This gives us the space we need to be together (with family) all day and together (alone) in the evenings. We take breaks for naps. We swim. We meet up when the kids are awake and in a good mood.
On that turf, we captured my nephew J for a day while my brother and his wife worked. We dubbed it Camp Cousins and it included swim time and Target shopping workshop and a dollar store adventure trip and crafts with cheapy dollar-store crayons. We sweltered in thousand-degree heat at a park set dead-center in a field of dried-out grass, just like every camper should. We sang silly songs. We ate lunch at Panera (so not-camp, but as close as we could get in a strip mall). It was as camp as camp can be with kids in carseats and one counselor who is past her God's-eye weaving prime.
The real counselor of Camp Cousins was Lil E. Every time he flinched or did his best impression of a bodily function or climbed anything or jumped off anywhere or said anything remotely silly, J was there, less than half his size, doing everything he could to duplicate each detail.
It's good for both of them, this brotherly way of being. For now, they are each only children, boys used to being in rooms of adults. That makes it a stretch -- a good, gentle stretch -- to hold hands, play, laugh at and with each other. It's good for E to be out of the place of jealousy for this new baby being soaking up all the attention in the room. It's good for him to look out for another person a bit. And I imagine it's good for J to learn all those things boys need to learn from each other -- how to make disgusting noises with your mouth and hand and use kitchen gadgets as weapons and the intricacies of Lego Star Wars.
For me, it's good, too. It's a new connection with my brother, it's a new identity as an aunt, it's an unfolding of our family, which can be insular. Plus, I just love seeing those two kiddos hold hands.