I have never considered myself close to my six year old cousin. Every week, my aunt brings my two cousins (her and her 2 year old brother) to visit our grandma, who lives with me. She is the ‘girly’ sort – preferring to hang out with female cousins. But when it is a one-to-one between her and me, she is always wanting of my attention.
In that sense, we are close, but not ‘close’.
Her birthday was around the corner. I bought my present, volunteered to take pictures for her birthday party at her home, and managed to rope in my other fourteen year old cousin, whom my little cousin adores but nearly skipped the party.
When we arrived at her party, she was surrounded by her same-age friends, and they were happily watching Zootopia. I approached her, expecting a toothy smile. But guess what? She TOTALLY ignored me!
The salt was rubbed into the wound when our aforementioned fourteen year old cousin approached her a minute later. She jumped up and hugged her, greeting her with a delighted grin. I sat down beside my grandma and tried to melt into the cushions, before being reminded that I was the photographer.
I switched off my emotions and set about taking photos of the party. Soon it was time to cut the cake, and as expected, she smiled at the camera. After the cake-cutting it was time for games, and being surrounded by her peers, she was having the time of her life.
It was then that my erstwhile aunt and uncle sprung a surprise birthday celebration for their friend – a belated birthday cake. And for a while, the limelight shifted away from my little cousin.
That made her a little envious, and she huffed off to a corner and sat face down into her knees. A few people noticed, but I was the one who went up to her and tried to shift her mood.
“It’s MY BIRTHDAY, but they are all celebrating this uncle’s birthday! It’s so not fair!”, she whined.
“That’s true, but no one celebrated his birthday, so (your mum) wanted to cut a cake for him too,” I reminded her. She looked up at me.
While it worked, it worked more because she suddenly became aware that all her friends were watching us. She must have felt embarrassed being advised, and so, picked herself up and ran off to play.
Later on, my fourteen year old cousin and I gave her our joint present – an embroidery kit. It was poorly wrapped, because of my weak art skills. She took one look at it.
“Wah, so small!”, she blurted out.
It felt as if an arrow had pierced my heart.
“Keep this in your house, we can do it another day,” she said, handing me the present.
While it would have been what her mother would have said, it was different coming direct from her. It was like she was implying that she was going to enjoy her bigger, more expensive presents that the working adults had bought her. I silently placed it behind her large pile of unopened presents.
When it was time to leave, my cousin instinctively hugged my grandma goodbye. But she had to be prompted to say bye to me too. I smiled and waved, wondering what I had done wrong.
Kids are considered immature because they often express their most candid opinions, which can be frowned upon. But that evening, my little cousin taught me some hard-hitting life lessons.
1) People only seek the attention of others when their preferred friends are not around.
2) If one’s friends are around, that person has a ‘right’ to ignore all others.
2) If it is a given person’s function, they had better be at the center of attention.
3) People don’t like being seen as weak; it is embarrassing if your friends see it.
4) The bigger the present, the more fun it must be.
5) Bigger cousin brothers are boring. (Alright, this one isn’t always true…)
I have never considered myself close to my six year old cousin. That day, I found out that she felt the same way too.