"Can I have this?" The scenario: three little kids under the age of 12 running around my room. They are visiting over the weekend for a little family reunion and of course, the number one task on their list is to play with me— the oldest child in our extended family.

"Sure!" I say, the words just flying out of my mouth. I am in shape, but I do not think I have been that exhausted in a long time. Little kids, especially if they are related to you, will give you a run for your energy level.

I love my family so much. To me, my little cousins are the cutest to ever exist. When I look at my only girl cousin, the youngest and age 5, I see a mini version of myself and I love everything about her. When I look at the two growing boys, ages 8 and 11, I see loving, kind, and adorable little men, enamored with video games and anything involving a screen.

While nothing in the world beats spending time with those you love, I will say that I learned some important things about little cousins, and kids in general, during their short visit.


Lesson 1

Little kids are brutally honest about appearances. "Wait… is that stubble?" My oldest "little cousin," aged 11, asked the question with a huge grin on his face. It is summertime and I am pretty good about shaving, but I might have skipped a day. "Um, no…" I quickly tried to deny and distract. His lack of inhibitions and extremely observant manner made me laugh. Phew… I thought. Dodging the bullet of the shaving question, I thought I had outwitted him. The conversation quickly moved onto my jewelry. "Is that real gold?"

"Well, yes it is…" I answered triumphantly. In the moment, I thought he was going to gold-shame me, if it were not. And then, he asked me to raise my arms up and… boom… "It IS stubble! It IS stubble!" he exclaimed. And proceeded to tell the family that I had stubble and puffy cheeks. The entire episode was heartwarming, of course, and a great reminder that not much slips by little kids. If they notice something is off with your appearance, they're going to call you out on it. (Side note: he also has a weird obsession with platform shoes. MY platform shoes…)

Lesson 2

They remember everything you ever promised them. Like ever. If you say you will do something, like promising to give them an old favorite necklace, or 10 dollars if they run and bring you a popsicle, you had better make sure you do it. My little girl cousin persistently asked me when she would get my old jewelry. When I forgot about it and said "later," she threw a fit. Just to quiet her down, I mustered the energy to run and look for the old treasure. When I found it, her face turned from a pouty, teary-eyed grouch to the sweetest little angel, in a nanosecond. In another incident, I had asked for a popsicle since they were closer to the freezer than I was. In a joking manner, I said I would pay my middle cousin $10 if he would bring me one. The monetary incentive was enough to get him moving. I enjoyed the popsicle and told him he was a nice boy. And then his hand came out of his pocket, palm up. "Pay up, Nuna!" (Nuna is a Korean word that males use to describe an "older sister") I said that I would pay him later. Hours later, I found him curled up in another room, sulking. He said that I had cheated him. I was dumbfounded, until I realized he wanted his money at that moment. I explained that I was a person of my word and would gladly give him what I had promised. It's a good thing I had cash on me or else I would be called "Liar" instead of "Nuna."

Lesson 3

Always have a phone charger on you. Depending on the parents, screen time varies. When little cousins visit older family members, it is pretty typical that they get more treats. Screen time for my little cousins, is one of those indulgences. Within one to two hours, my phone battery went from 100% to 5% due to the constant downloading of games and game-playing.

Similar principles apply for food and money. Always make sure you have plenty because you never know if you'll need to make a 10 pm run to the supermarket to get ice cream in every flavor. (I brought the cousins with me and it was actually a PARTY).

The list of lessons above all have one thing in common; they teach you how to be a role-model for younger, formative minds. Perhaps most importantly, when I was with my cousins, I realized that the little ones in my family teach me how to love the most. Their innocence, happiness, energy, and demands for attention, teach patience and caring. While it can be very tiring, and yes, sometimes annoying, I would not trade my cousins for anyone else. My little-bros and my mini-me keep me grounded to family, in love.