Family has always been important to me. When I was growing up, my mom, dad, brother and I moved a lot, so our small nuclear unit was always close-knit. We visited extended family for a week or so at a time for summer vacations, called each other often, and always placed value on sending cards, care packages and making each other feel loved. (We still do the same!!) I know my grandparents well, and have relationships with second cousins, great grandparents, and my aunts and uncles.
Friends and acquaintances can see the value I place on my family, too. At one point, (during quite a spat) an ex-boyfriend claimed that I had a “committee” consisting of Mom, Dad, Nana, and my best friend Kristin, for which I turned to everyday for advice. I realized in the moment that it wasn’t untrue, and his intonation of disgust and independence made me even more fiercely defensive of my family members than I already was. And the “committee” was really happy to have a name… 🙂
Of course I include those born into my circle part of my family, but those that are not biologically part of me are still part of my family. For instance, my Mom met one of her best friends over 28 years ago in a newcomer’s club, and instantly were close. Though our family continued to move around, they are still a close-knit part of my family definition. Other family friends welcomed us into their home every year for Hanukkah, where we feasted on our “hunk of meat” and celebrated the winter festivities. I have plenty of non-biological grandparents that are so close to me my heart could burst for the love. Just as if I had been born to them, they have made such an impression on me, and done so much for me and my family that I could never leave them out.
So this brings me to my point – my family means a lot to me. But apparently, not everyone feels the same. The very week we brought home Scarlett, I heard a heartbreaking story about family. A lady, with a grown son (who also has a wife and 2 children), went on vacation with her husband, son, grandchildren and daughter-in-law. They trekked across the U.S. to an exciting family destination, spending nearly two weeks having fun, seeing the sights and enjoying a break. But when this lady asked to visit a special place and show her grandchildren what it meant to her, she was met with a harsh no. Because it wasn’t for the son. It wasn’t important to him, so he put the kibosh on it. When she asked again, nicely (and having treated everyone on the trip with love and respect), and delved further into the conversation, one of the remarks that came back to her was, Because you’re not a part of my family. My family is me, my wife and my kids. You’re not a part of that.
I could hardly believe it. What kind of person says that to their mother? She did everything she could for you, including giving you life, doing her best and raising you to the best of her ability? My heart aches for her, because no one deserves that. My hormone-filled new mother heart wept at the mere mention of the story, and with my own large family in town to celebrate Scarlett, it all was a little closer to home. Even Chase sensed how I was feeling about it. It’s like my very own cousin, Shakespeare (yup… totally related through shared grandparents!), wrote, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”
Now, I may only have one sibling and four cousins, but my family is a large one. I include my adopted aunts and uncles, grandparents, best friends and their loved ones. My definition of the word is expansive, because it’s more than just those that were born into it. Family units don’t need to have the same religion, the same skin tone, or even the same genes. Two mothers that adopt their beautiful girls from Russia don’t love their children any less than I love mine. But how do you tell someone they’re not a part of your family? How did their relationship change so much?
How do you define your family?
*A note of thanks to my committee member who helped inspire me to write this post and for all the love they have shown me. You are a part of my family <3 *