According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a family is ‘’a group of people who are related to each other”. But what does that mean in this world of separation, kids being tossed around and even people scheming to have children alone, sometimes leaving the father out of the picture altogether by never telling the man he has a child. What do we teach our children about the family unit?
What is a Family?
I come from your average family (mum, dad, me, and my sister). But with my parent’s separation things got convoluted. What was I supposed to think about my parent’s new partners? What about their children? And what about when the partners change? Surely, If I considered all of them to be a part of my respective family, I would’ve been torn open over and over again while facing the separations repeatedly.
So for me, my parent’s new partners never made the cut. I never accepted any stepfather or -mother, and the children were never my sisters or brothers. Does this instability bring with it the sense, that a family unit is something that remains constant in our lives?
The constant does not always mean family.
In one of my long relationships, my boyfriend’s family was a big part of my life. I would say it was constant. But I don’t think that they ever saw me as a true part of the family, just like I couldn’t see them as a part of my family. I just couldn’t fit in, like a square block trying to get into a round hole. For a decade we tolerated each other, as is customary when there is a common nominator neither one of the parties wants to lose.
In the other long relationships, such as with my birth family, things stay constant but fade as well. I can not choose my blood bonds, yet those bonds don’t always ensure that the people remain and keep their status as loved ones. When there is nobody to take care of the relationship, the bond, can it truly be called family?
The same goes for my relatives. We may be tied by blood, but that’s all there is to it. In childhood, there was more of a sense of unity, but since my vanishing from the planet earth, the bonds faded and broke. I no longer feel connected to most of my relatives, and sadly this has happened with the close family too.
If blood isn’t enough, then what is?
During the years I’ve had many concepts of family. First, it was my mum, dad, sister and me. That was my unit. Then the storms hit and I had to adapt. My friends became my family, I loved them dearly. All my sisters and brothers, I felt safe with them and I felt that I could count on any one of them. TThe times got rougher once more, some of my friends died, got killed, or just otherwise left my presence. The internet came to my salvation.
I had my online, gaming friends. The communities across the world and from all the cultures you could imagine. I had guilds, alliances, tons of people working together to achieve some fabricated heights in a virtual environment. And then that came crashing down like everything else before it.
This was about the time when I met my husband, in a videogame. Things were coming to an end, and another beginning was just behind the corner. All of my previous ideas of a family to be shredded in the shadow cast by one man.
When blood betrays you.
Up till that moment in my life, I had thought that my blood family would always have my back, no matter what. That like a good clan of cultists, we would band together and protect each other, rally the troops and run over the evil that is hurting the members of this clan. I was bitterly disappointed.
In one of my darkest, hardest hours, not a single person from my blood came to my support. Some because I lost faith and blocked them off, and some just bluntly turned their coats and joined the enemy team. Where was my amazing cult-like family then? With the salt in my tears and growing pain in my heart, I watched as another, more charismatic leader took my place by my family’s side and made them cast me out as a heretic, a crazy person fit for an asylum.
My thoughts of a family that stays united through all the storms of the world, got crushed. The bonds I had forged in my childhood, neglected in my short adult life, the bonds of blood and birthing pains, and family life under the same roof… I learned they were not strong enough.
I got a lesson in life.
That lesson was, that a true family, true bonds, the kind that are nigh unbreakable, and a thousand times stronger, are the ones forged in the fires of struggle. I don’t have many members in my family based on this logic, but I don’t mind. The ones that are there, were true, through the fires we travel together as a unit. When one falls, we carry them forward until they can walk again.
There is nothing more powerful than being in a place where you realize that this chaotic vortex you are standing in someone stands in with you. I have learned the meaning of family by watching my husband’s ties to his mother, grandfather, his siblings. By listening to his life experience, where sometimes family goes beyond blood.
The more I listened and talked with him. The more I reflected on my own life and looked back at the interactions I’ve had, I have understood that till this day I have had only a few true friends or family members. The others are just dust in the wind, people that are there to try to control me, benefit from me, or otherwise lead me astray based on their own beliefs.
What does my family look like today?
Well, while I’m thankful and revere my husband’s relatives and loved ones, and while they do their best to assure me that I’m a part of the family, I remain cautious. Cautious but open to possibilities. My inherent paranoia about being abandoned and the multitude of times I got betrayed by pretty much all of the people I’ve been around left me wounded and bleeding. I need time to heal, so I may try a trust people once more.
That being said, I have one person that I consider mine, a part of my clan. Or more likely I’m a part of his clan. My husband has gone above and beyond to cherish me, to love me, and to do everything in his power to make me feel safe under his wing. He was very clear from the beginning regarding his wants and needs, which made the rules of the relationship superbly clear, and other than that he does not try to tell me how to go on about my life. Together we walk in the swamp of life, even if it sometimes means he has to drag me behind him because of my poor mental health.
Besides my husband, I consider my mother to be the other member of my current family. We’ve had our fair share of sorrows between us, but it seems that both she and I are willing to try and work through the mud and keep the relationship between us going. In these times of loss, she has been an invaluable part of the chaos unraveling and me being able to move forward and keep learning about life as I experience it.
What does your family look like? Let us know in the comments!
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2 thoughts on “What are Families made of?”
A lot of pain and trauma comes with my family. The fakeness, secrets, and abuse was hushed. My family hop, skip, and jump over the pain to be a “perfect” family. I left a long time ago and only talk with a few. I realize family can be people who aren’t your family.
I’m sorry you have to deal with that, it’s never easy when you realize those kinds of things and then have to somehow deal with them. I hope you’re in a better place now!