What is Family, Anyway?

Standard

As I write this blog post I am currently sitting on a plane that is taking me away from one home and towards another.  Every year at Thanksgiving I make the aeriel trek home in order to eat some delicious food, see my family, and eat more delicious food.  I am never disappointed.

Despite the fact that I love my life in California, I am particularly morose this year as I journey back towards the land of sun and sand.  Being together with everyone has reminded me how much we all have grown up (and how much we haven’t) and has made me realize how much I miss out on when I don’t get to see my siblings for a year at a time.

And yet, even with that year of time between being together in person, I experienced nothing but complete settledness.  Even with every single one of us branching out and living lives so completely different from one another, the moment we are back in our childhood house we immediately fall into our relationships with ease.

For those of you who are also able to experience this, how lucky are we?  We are able to grow and expand and experience and fall and succeed yet still have a place of safety and ease on which to land and take a break from everything in our regular lives.

The dictionary definition of family is “all the descendants of a common ancestor”.  However, this succinct phrasing cannot encompass the true meaning of family; having individuals in your life that you simultaneously love, can’t stand, and every other emotion in-between but overall, can’t imagine your life without.  Family means…everything.

FAMILY means acceptance.  There are five total children in my immediate clan, and two of them are married (hint: it’s not me).  Whoever walks into the door of my parents’ house opens a Pandora’s box of personality types, backgrounds, strengths, and issues.  I love so many things about every single person in this eclectic circle, and every single person has a particular way that they can Drive. Me. Up. A. Wall.

Yet, because of the bonds shared since womb-hood, I cannot imagine cutting any of them out of my life.  No matter how annoying, stupid, or irresponsible any of them can be, I accept them whole-heartedly.

The great and unbelievable thing about this is, is it is true in reverse.  I know 100% that I do and say things that drive my family nuts or rub them the wrong way.  There is no possible way to avoid doing so after 28 years of being around the same people.  However, I know that no matter what I say or do short of cold-blooded murder, I will never be cast outside of the fold.  And there is absolutely no better feeling than that.

FAMILY means constructive criticism.  While family may accept your imperfections, they are not averse to putting in their two cents when they feel necessary.  Yet in opposition to most criticism thrown around in the world, these thought-provoking comments or conversations spring out of a place of deep love and desire for the best for whoever is receiving the notes.

This Thanksgiving, I had finally gotten fed up with one of my siblings and had snapped a curt retort.  My grandma simply stated “cool it, you” as she walked past.  Straightforward, short, to the point, yet it completely shook me out of my annoyance and made me realize that my vitriol was not necessary.  Sometimes a simple reminder from people who love you regardless is just the thing you need to change a negative attitude or a habit.

FAMILY means safety.  The reason that I am able to fly so far from the nest of my youth is because I know without the slightest shadow of a doubt that I can always, 100%, rely on my family if I were to need help in any way.  Even with all of the pulls on their attention, if I were to ever get so desperate as to need a place to stay, I would have one.  If I ever need to vent and not worry about sounding like a Negative Nancy, I can call on any number of ears and take advantage.

Anything and everything that might crop up in life does not seem like a big obstacle because I have access to an incredible network of strong individuals that will do anything in their power to make sure that I am ok.  This knowledge is a powerful antidote to any fear or hesitation I might feel over any roadblock I may face.

FAMILY means abnormal normality.  My dad has been known to make up short bizarre songs on the spot.  My brother decides to speak in random accents at unforeseen times.  My sister loves to reference anything I do wrong in her eyes as the act of an “uncultured swine”.  We 100% bust out the Disney songs when we ride in the car, and my voice is usually the loudest one.

All of these quirky, random, non-normal aspects of every single person in the inner circle makes my family, family.  Every single family in the world has their weird, zany, creative, off-the-wall, embarrassing habits that they would rather the outside world not know.  I say, however, that we should embrace that weirdness as OURS.  There is a distinct sense of pride in ownership, and your family deserves that pride as much as your car or your house.

As a teacher, I am privy to the heartbreaking reality that my family situation is rare.  There are too many children and adults that go through life without the love, acceptance, criticism, and sense of belonging that they need in order to thrive.

So for those kids and grown-up kids, who is family, anyway, if it’s not blood?  Thankfully, we can still get all of these benefits from families that we build ourselves.  Actively seek out people that can offer this support to you, and make sure to offer it in return.

So, if you are in possession of this sense of family, cherish it.  If you are not, build it.  Life is better with our people, and I think we could all do a little bit more to make sure our people know how awesome they are.

Because honestly, without the bonds of family, what is life, anyway?