Last weekend, I got to be a part of a tremendous celebration. My nephew celebrated his first birthday. He was an old pro about it, playing to the crowd gathered around him and mashing his smash cake like it was his job. It helped that he had some practice at a small gathering with his other toddler friends. But I would like to think that he also inherited some of his dad’s showmanship. (I told you that Matt is the cool brother, right?)
My favorite part of the party was watching his birthday video. I kept looking for parts that included me. But not because I thought that I should be prominently featured in the video. (I’m awesome and all, but I am just the uncle after all!) I was excited because the pictures reminded me of moments that we shared together during this past year. I remember babysitting him one night so his parents could go out for a night. He seemed so little then and that moment seemed so many years ago, but it was only a year ago. There was the trip to Florida and the week in Door County. There were many moments that I was around for and even more that I wasn’t. Soon, I was enjoying every picture and every moment, whether I was a part of it or not.
I never imagined that I could be so proud and excited for the developments of a child that was not one of my own children. But I am and I was and it felt wonderful.
My favorite part of Alexander and his personality right now is that he is just on the cusp of knowing. When you look at him, he looks back at you and you can tell that something is going on. He knows that you are not his mom or his dad, and while he doesn’t quite know who you are, he recognizes that you are someone he has seen before. Someone who seems to be special. You are a someone.
As I sit and think about my nephew, I wish that I could spend more time with him. Not only because we live hours apart and I wish we could see not only him but also his parents more often. Even when our families are together, our time together is limited and flies by too fast. There are always other things for each of us to attend to; he has his schedule of eating, sleeping and playing and I have the schedule of playing and napping and running around and entertaining of my own children. But no matter the quantity of minutes that we spend together, in the moments that we do share the connection is instantaneous. When I said my good-byes to him last weekend, it felt like I hadn’t spent nearly enough time just hanging out with him, yet I also felt like it was more than enough to reaffirm our bond.
Maybe it is me being a biased uncle. Maybe it is that part of me relates to children with ease (the part that drew me to Pediatrics in the first place). Maybe it is something else entirely. Whatever it is that keeps us connected, I am forever grateful and blessed.
I also am glad to see it is a connection that my own children share with their cousin. One of the goals I set as a parent is to have my girls be as close as sisters as I am with my brothers. Coming just behind that is wanting them to experience all of the joy and love that an extended family of cousins can bring. So many of my memories are centered around having fun with my cousins from both families.
Spending a New Year’s Eve with many of my cousins from Wisconsin so many years ago. Traveling up to the farm in Wisconsin where some of my cousins live and having the ‘city folk’ chase a pig that had gotten loose. The non-stop party circuit of the summer with the Sieracki cousins, playing baseball or soccer against each other. Sleeping over at each others houses. Going to Fish Creek. Family Christmas parties. Family picnics. Karaoke birthday parties. Family dance-offs. (Sure my family got schooled, but in the end, the world was the winner because it got to see such a collection of awesome dance moves!) Cubs game road trips to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Whether it was 30 years ago or last weekend, the connections are continually remade and reformed, taking on a life of their own. I want that for my children and their cousin.
On the surface, it was just a 1 year old’s birthday party. But to me, the proud uncle, it was the glimpse into the future of another golden age of me and my family. Happy birthday Alexander. May we all have many more reasons to gather, celebrate and grow closer together.