Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be family. For most of us, this probably brings to mind words like mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa and so on. And, I would imagine, for some it’s a mixed bag of emotions. Maybe your family treated you like crap, while your best friend loved you through the ups and downs of life. Whatever our experiences, I think we get really stuck with an extremely narrow definition of what makes a family. Here’s what I mean.
I would say that for many of us, living near our “family” is not a reality. We are spread across the country and might get to see one another once a year. While our reunions are sweet, we miss out on experiencing the ins and outs of daily life together. Ultimately, we form bonds with our friends and neighbors to fill in those holes. We go to each other’s events, birthday parties, and even celebrate holidays together. In essence, we become family.
This isn’t to say that these new relationships replace the other, but they are significant. And, if our original experience with “family” was negative, they might give us a sense of belonging and community that we had not yet had. Who knows.
I can tell you that I feel very blessed. Not only did I grow up with an AMAZING family, but I feel fortunate that I now am blessed with a wonderful little family unit of my own. In these last years, unfortunately, we haven’t been able to live near my family or my husband’s and at times it’s hard. Especially once we had children. I guess that is what has sparked part of this conversation, that you’re currently listening in on, or thought. You can say the quote “It takes a village” is a load, but let’s face it, it takes a lot more people than just a mom and dad to raise a child. If the complete task of loving, nurturing, caring, and providing for our girls was on our shoulders along we would collapse under the pressure. I need to know that there are others who know and love my children. Who know and love my husband. And ultimately, who know and love me.
Fortunately, we have experienced this, despite being so far from “family.” We have found friends who although we don’t share DNA, last names, or country of origin, have become our family. It isn’t a replacement, seriously I don’t want to say that, but man is it sweet. True community. It’s awesome. It’s holy. And it’s a gift.
The other place where I get frustrated is in the addition of children. For many couples, biological children are a must- the only way to build a family. For others, adoption is a must. Not a “second best” but a choice, a preference and a desire. Why so many people place more value on one over the other is beyond me. Blood does not define family. Love, commitment, trust, and so much more does. The next time that someone tells me, “We are going to be adopting a child,” my first reaction should be AWESOME!!! Not some lame narrow-minded thought of, “Oh, could you not have children?” That doesn’t even make sense, really. Of course they can HAVE children- they just told me they are going to!! But, for anyone to think that a family is less of a family because they don’t share the same bone structure is ridiculous! Don’t you think?
I guess, to end my rambling, I just want to keep my eyes open to the many ways in which family can manifest itself around me and hopefully through me. I hope to never judge or evaluate anyone’s definition of family. Because, let’s face it, life is too short to be alone. If you can find people you love, who love you, and who can journey along with you, that is family. Hang on to it, cherish it, and ask them to babysit. :)