As I was finishing up my chapter work for my Interpersonal Communications class today and I came across the chapter on family relationships. There was a section defining different types of families - "nuclear", "blended", etc. Whether you’re married, homosexual, combined with other relatives, or remarried - children always seemed to be required for the “family” definition. I like to think that with our two selves, two dogs, two ferrets, two gerbils, two parakeets and a fish tank that we have a fine little family going. And that even without the pets we would still qualify for family status for reasons beyond procreation. I would also say that a young woman living in an apartment with her cat are also their own little family. Maybe that’s too broad a definition for some – but I definitely find the current definitions to be too narrow.
The family I was adopted into was large. Lots of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and of course children. But not a family by any definition. Abusive, cruel, petty, manipulative and all of them only out for themselves. Every positive interaction mentioned in the chapter – I never saw it among them. The book says that “family comes from the Latin “famulus”, meaning “servant” or “slave”. I think they were all fully aware of that. They used each other to their own purposes, never giving back. There was no positivity. No openness. No assurances. Everyone yelled at each other even though they were in the same room. When my mother died I left that family. I’m perfectly happy with the little one I’ve got going on here – even if it doesn’t warrant definition.
In reality “defining family” is probably too difficult. People who are supposed to be our family sometimes simply aren’t. And those that we aren’t related to biologically/by adoption are “like family”. I feel more affection for my brother-in-law than I ever will for my sister. I have an aunt and uncle through my husband who I hold closer than any in my adoptive family. And as I've said before my husband’s father was the only man I ever called “Dad” by choice. Sometimes redefining is required.