What is Family to You?

     I have friends from all stages of my life, those I grew up with, those I went to high school with, those I met in college and then law school, those I met at the myriad of jobs I had, those I met through other friends, the list goes on and on!  The thing is I absolutely love meeting people and exploring their experiences, not that my own life is boring, trust me I keep them intrigued, but it feeds my soul!  So I am hardly put off when someone tells me that their immediate family consisted of a woman she met while working at some random job who decided to take on the role of “Mom”.   I mean to the extent that the only way you knew this woman was not her biological mother was when I would be attending a gathering and her biological family would show up with a different mother.  I have friends who have adopted the family of an ex, even maintaining a sibling type relationship with that ex when it was all said and done.   The thing is these folks filled a void that we all want filled, with love, nurturing and support, despite the absence of biological connections.

     Well today family is what you make it!  Same-sex couples, intergenerational, adoptive, etc.  all constitute family if those key elements are there (although a family devoid of those key elements is no less a family).  I approach this topic today because I recently, and do on a recurrig basis, had a discussion with my significant other about the hybrid situation within his family.   We all remember the 80’s and the impact the crack epidemic had on the Black family.  Well, many of us were directly affected, including myself, to the point where our immediate family was extended by my mother adopting two of my sister’s children because of her crack addiction.  In my SO’s family though, his maternal aunt adopted her grand-nephew, but here’s the thing… they all still live in the same house.  So, maternal grandmother, mother, adoptive mother/great aunt and the boy all live under one roof and have been for the past fifteen years.  I remember when my mother decided to take on two more mouths to feed, I thought she was crazy considering she was not getting any younger and not in the best health.  But she, like many other family members who took on this difficult feat, was determined to keep our family together. 

     So to date, I rarely raise an eyebrow when I hear of an unconventional family situation, unless there is abuse of course.  On the contrary, I exude compassion and appreciation for that individual who, whether deliberately or not, put themselves in the position of mother, father, sister or brother or whatever, giving someone else a place to call home.   Especially when, but for that adopted family, that person would have to take this journey without the trials and tribulations of family ( we can all testify to what our families put us through-whew!).   I know for me when I was dating as soon as a man told me he either had no family or did not have a relationship with his family and was okay with that I bolted.  Family keeps us going, growing and grounded, whether it’s the ideal family, the incomplete family or the adopted family, it does all of our bodies (and minds and spirits) GOOD


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