What is a family? This seems like it would be a very simple question, but as time has gone by over the last century I feel like the answer has become harder for each individual to answer. Why is it hard to answer? Because there is no one correct answer.
Traditionally family has been nuclear. There were one woman and one man married with kids. Of course, this can differ even between religions and cultures. Lately, within the last 60 or more years the definition of family has been evolving. Different types of families are becoming more accepted and family has been expanding significantly. I believe this expansion in what is acceptable has been so very important.
How do I define family?
To me family first includes those that are biologically related to me. My family includes my children, my siblings, my parents, my nieces, my nephews, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins. This is very traditional in the sense of having this biological connection to these people makes them family.
However, I think family is so much more than that. Family includes friends that have always been there for you. Family includes significant others (no matter gender). Family includes the people you have significant things in common with. For instance, I work and volunteer at a local community theater. I consider many of my friends there, family. They are my “theater family.”
Family can change at any time during your life. From the time I was 15 until I was 22 I worked for my local Parks and Recreation Department. Many I worked with during that time I considered family. Many I still see and would still consider family where others have moved on, I don’t see them, and are not close to them any longer.
What should family be for you?
Family should be many things. Family is supportive. Family loves unconditionally. Family is always there. Family does not hold grudges. Family is strong and family is always evolving.
Family may not agree with one another but they never let differences break their connection. I know this characteristic can be hard. Differences in political beliefs can definitely make me roll my eyes at my family members, like my parents, even my husband. Differences in religion can separate family at times. Some may not feel comfortable in a church so they do not come to your child’s baptism. But no matter these instances I still feel strongly for each one of my family members. There may be pain, there may be confusion, and there may be contempt on and off, depending on the situation but it always dissipates, it always fades, and the love never wavers.
Now, I need to add that some family can let these differences separate them. But a strong, unconditionally loving family, would not.
There is never a stop to the size of family. You’re always losing members (whether by separation or by death) and you’re always gaining members (by birth, marriage, or just meeting new wonderful friends). It is an amazing experience that I feel is very important to experience in life. The struggle of loss helps us grow. The excitement of new loved ones in our life helps our heart heal and grow.
What is family to you? What are some important characteristics you think makes a strong family?