I just spent the past weekend in North Carolina at the wedding of my ex-stepfather’s older brother’s youngest daughter.
You know. My cousin.
I’ve mentioned my mishmash of a family . It is vast and encompasses multitudes. There are people I call by the family titles—aunt, cousin, brother—who are related to me by neither blood or law. Are they less my family because of that?
Not to me. And not to my daughter. She loves her Grandman, her Grandpa Bob, and her Grandaddy, without worrying about which is my actual birth father.
I have relatives who are not part of my family. And I have many, many people in my family who aren’t my relatives. And that’s because mine is a family of choice.
I learned this concept from one of my gay friends. I find my gay friends know all about family of choice. Several have been disowned by their families of birth. Several have moved far away from their birth families to live where there are more people like them. Several more have jumped through incredible hoops to marry or bring a child into their lives, and are busy creating families that some people find offensive. They stand, with their chosen kin, in shining defiance and refusal to be miserable and alone.
Sounds like family to me.
Have you ever been far from home on a holiday and been asked to join someone else’s celebration? This is a prime example of impromptu family of choice. As a mom, I intend to always open my house to any of my daughter’s friends who need a place to bask in Thanksgiving’s warm, glowing stuffing love.
Did you happen to have an adult that it was easier to ask tough questions of than your folks? I delight that my girl can eventually ask things about sex or drugs or anything else to any number of adults that she (and I) trust, rather than having to just listen what my husband and I say.
Do you know anyone who is or has adopted? I’ll bet that you do, even if you don’t think so. This is one of the oldest forms of family of choice: to take a child that is not related to you by blood, and choose to make them a part of your family. It is a gift on both sides, and one that even this agnostic can recognize as divine.
Family is bigger than blood. Bigger than the law. Bigger than any one definition.
I was born in Hawai’i. There, it is traditional to refer to all of your parents' friends (and in fact, almost anyone older than you) as Auntie or Uncle. My husband and I have continued this tradition with our daughter. She calls at least twenty people “Auntie.” If pressed, she can tell you which one is my blood sister. But she doesn’t really care.
They’re all her family. Grandparents, cousins, friends, neighbors.
One big, happy family.