We recently spent the day with one of my favorite cousins and her family. She and I are astonishingly similar for being so different. We share a rather twisted sense of humor that relies heavily on sarcasm and a general go-with-the-flow perspective toward life. We both put family extremely high on our priority lists and try to work around difficult personalities.

Our lives, however, look completely different. The first time we all got together for dinner, she brought a big bag full of small quiet toys and hand sanitizer for the kids. I brought my winning smile. She spends time searching out designer brands at lower prices and knows about the wine choices on the menu at a nice restaurant. I buy what’s on sale and the restaurants we go to generally don’t have wine lists.

For our most recent adventure, we went to an amusement park and then back to their hotel to eat dinner together in the very nice restaurant. They ordered a sample of the restaurants’ dessert platter that came in fancy glass cups arranged on an elegant wire stand. This thing was beautiful. And totally out of my kids’ comfort zone. But my son, who will look at a meal and decide based on air pressure, scent, or general presentation whether or not he will like it, tried every single one of those cups. And lest you think, duh, it was dessert, that included the rosemary thyme crème infusion.

I thought about all of this as I drove home that night. I am so glad my cousin and her family are part of our lives. I love spending time with them and my children love their cousins. But more than that, my kids have experienced so many things outside of their norm while hanging out with them. And in the future, if one of my children wants to be a chef, or an upscale business owner, or just wear designer clothes, they will have someone in their inner circle, someone that I trust, that can relate. I probably will never know which wine pairs well with glazed ahi in a balsamic reduction or which designers are hot this season, but I know someone who does.

All of these profound thoughts, helped along by theme park exhaustion and rosemary thyme crème infusion, lead me to a conclusion: [Tweet “As a parent, I need to go beyond valuing differences and actually try to seek them out.”] Interacting with people coming from a unique perspective enriches our lives and the lives of our kids. My challenge to you is to consider the families you are most often around. If their lives all look the same as yours, go make some new friends to join you!