I have been thinking about the word “Family” a lot over the course of the past few weeks. Who are they, what does it mean to have a family, and what does having a family mean to me.
Tonight I am touching base on of course, the technical definitions of the word, various interpretations of the word, but most importantly, to me, what it means to be family…
According to Google’s dictionary, “family” has two definitions as a noun: 1- a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit. 2- all the descendants of a common ancestor. Digging a little deeper into the word and its definition, because even though the first two are pretty spot on, I needed more, family is also a “group of people who want as well as choose to be together embraced by a bond so powerful that not even the smallest tribulations can shake it”.
That definition is a solid one. Family is not only defined as parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and all others produced by a single bloodline. Family are those that stand behind you. They are loyal to you; they love you deeply, with all their heart. You are not limited to one family. Some have many. You can have your work family, your immediate family, your school family, sports family……. see the pattern? Family is not a limited thing. It is so much more than that. It is that feeling of being home among certain people. Families shape our future on so many levels, starting off as babies, until the day we die. They create bonds developed by deep affection, loyalty, respect, love, and attachment. Being a part of a family means you are a part of something beautiful. It means you will be loved for the rest of your life, no matter what happens.
My family is the single most important thing to me. The rest of my life could crumble to the ground, but as long as I have them, I know I am okay. My family is my rock, my safe place.
Choosing Your Family
Everyone has their own opinion on this matter. My thought on this subject is yes, you can choose who your family is. Obviously, you cannot choose that of which you are born into, but you can choose who you call your family and who you treat as family.
Growing up, I viewed my family as my mom, my dad, and my younger brother. I had a large family, filled with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, the whole 9 yards. I even had two siblings from my mom’s first marriage, and considered their dad family as well. However, we only ever really got together when there was a BIG event like a milestone met or a death occurred. We never had large family parties for holidays or birthdays. It was always just my parents, brother and I, and on the rare occasion, my older siblings would be there. As we grew up, family gatherings started to be held at my sister’s house, with her husband and their kids.
My brother and I played little league for, basically our entire youth. Our extended family became the others at the baseball field. My parents developed close relationships with the other adults and I ended up with “bonus” aunts and uncles. Some of them are closer to me than my actual bloodline. Why is that important? Because this is where my WHOLE point is being made. Families are not only defined by blood. My dad had a friend named Sam and he and my dad were the best of friends. We saw him at every birthday party, BBQ, baseball game, even my baby shower!!!! He was at my graduation party and my going away party when I joined the Navy. He was my Uncle Sam. I never called him by his actual name, he was always Uncle Sam to me. He wasn’t bound to us by blood or marriage. He was just there. He was loyal, he was attached, and he loved us all so much.
My mom had her best friend Judy, who is still her friend to this day, decades later. Judy’s daughters played softball with me, and my mom formed a close friendship with her. Judy became my aunt and my person in so many ways. When my mom got really sick in the hospital and we thought we were going to lose her day in and out for weeks, Judy was my person I would call and cry to. Judy held me up when all I wanted to do was fall to the ground. She was there for my mom during my teen pregnancy; she helped me and my mom through some really tough times. She is not related to us by blood, but man, that bond with her is stronger than anything. She was and will always be family to me.
My family has grown a lot over time, and now consists of not only my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, my sister’s best friend, my brother’s best friend, but also my boyfriend’s entire family. Along with ALL of them, I have established several of my friends are included in that beautiful family of mine. My family is forever growing and evolving, and that is how I imagine a family to be.
The “Perfect” Family
There is no such thing as a perfect family. We can be close, but there is no such thing. Everyone has in their minds what a perfect family is. I know I do. When I imagine the word family, I think of all those I just talked about, my extended family. When I think of a “family dinner, or family gathering” I see my parents, my boyfriend’s parents, all three of our siblings and their partners, along with their kids. That is my immediate family. They are the ones I lean on with my day to day stuff. They are the ones who I text random memes to, update with random news in my life.
My family is far from perfect. Online we may appear that way, but let me be the first to tell you, we are a mess. My family is loud, opinionated, wrong on a lot of things, rude, and very outspoken. We all have different beliefs and opinions on everything. They all have strong personalities and most are not afraid to show it. My family argues and disagrees on a lot of things. We rarely see eye to eye on more than one thing. We hardly ever have large gatherings. We mainly see each other for holidays and some birthdays, but not all. We don’t speak on the phone that often. I honestly cannot even tell you the last time I called a sibling to just “catch up” with them. Granted, they don’t call me either. However, I know if I truly needed them, they would be there, in a flash, no matter what. My family may be distant, but I know I can rely in them when I really need them. They aren’t that perfect Hallmark type of people, but they are the best to me. That is our dynamic and that is okay!!!
My boyfriend’s family….. They are a little more involved than mine is. They talk on the phone every day, send weekly updates about their week. They get together for ALL holidays, and never miss a birthday. They go on family vacations and have random family dinners throughout the months. Their dynamic is much different than my own family’s and guess what, they aren’t perfect either. They argue, bicker, and complain just like my family does. They don’t agree on everything either. They may look picture perfect but no one is.
My point is, if you think you have a dysfunctional family and are embarrassed by it because you guys dont get along all the time, dont be. No one is perfect. Stop thinking you have to have this Hollywood Picture Perfect type of family. That s*&% isnt real. The arguments, the fights, the teasing, the disagreements, that stuff is essential. The long talks and forgiving each other afterwards, that is where the good stuff is.
What Family Means to Me…
I can answer this in one simple word. Family means everything to me. All of them, immediate and extended. They all hold a very special place in my heart and that spot wont ever go away. Once I consider you family, that title doesnt go away easily. It can, of course, but it is really hard.
To me, family means I am never alone. They are by my side, whether I like it or not. They are there, for all the joys, troubles, chaos, and excitement. Up until about three years ago, family may have had a different meaning to me. Then a death happened that shook us. It changed how I viewed the word, how I defined it. Without my family, I would not be the woman I am today.
If I have learned anything in my short 31 years of life, things never turn out the way you expect them to. I have learned so many things can go wrong and a lot of those things cannot or wont ever get fixed. I have learned a lot of things will break and stay broken. I have learned a lot of things can never go back to what it once was. I have learned you can get through all those are times and those that help you get through them are your family. The ones you lean on when times get harder than you can even imagine, that is your family. Those are the ones you got to hold on to, with all your heart. Don’t take them for granted. Tell them you love them every chance you get.