Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ode To My Family

As someone once agreeably misquoted to me,

You can pick your nose, and you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your friend's nose and you can't pick your family.

This is certainly true on one level-no matter what you do, or what they do, the people you were born to don't change. There will always be these people walking around with a similar genetic make up to you (or married to those people), and there's nearly nothing you can do about it because getting rid of them is as socially awkward as picking your friend's nose.

This misquote takes on a whole new meaning for people like Hubby and I. As far as family make up goes, we are the stereotypical 20-somethings these days. Our parents got pregnant as teenagers, shot-gunned it to the courthouse, got divorced soon after, and eventually got remarried-giving Hubby and I 4 parents a piece and leaving us related by blood or marriage to literally thousands of people.

It wouldn't have been so hard if we had gotten to pick these people, but instead we end up with busy body Grandma Drinks-A-Lot, a Step Mom who is shallower than a puddle of spit, a sister who is too self centered to care about anything except for her career (including, sadly, her own husband and newborn), and a large group of genetically related people who can't be bothered when it's not about them.

It's difficult to grow up being seen as an inconvenience, and worse when you're constantly reminded that's what you are. There are a lot of people our age that have grown up this way, with disconnected families and self centered parents, and it has bred a generation where many people get bitter and decide not to have families at all. (The average age of a first time parent is now estimated to be 25-27 years old, and it is estimated by the US Census that 6-9% of married couples will remain voluntarily childless.) Those of us who do decide to have families, like Hubby and I, often struggle to create our own definition of what families are, and what they do. Obviously, to those in our position, a genetic or marital relationship (while technically accurate) is not a good practical definition of family. In today's world, blood is no longer thicker than water and marriage is easily ended (or, an opposite but equally unappealing idea, kept together miserably until death). So what does that leave us with?

We both decided (separately as children funnily enough, but our attitudes are identical) that family is an action not a genetic or legal state of being. Just because someone shares one or more parents in common with you, or marries your grandmother on the third go around, doesn't make them family. Those people are relatives.

To us, family are those people who love and support us no matter what, who are as devoted to us as we are to them, those who make our needs a priority, who are capable of giving selflessly, and people we can do these things for in return...these are not always relatives, and those who are relatives are not always family. It has been a hard lesson to learn, but it has been worth it.

Hubby and I, despite our relatives, have been blessed with a wonderful family. We have each other and we stay together-not because we "have to", not because we have a piece of paper telling us to, and not for the kids...because we love each other, we are equally devoted to each other, we give selflessly to each other, and we make each other the priority in our lives. We're family.

We give this love, devotion, and loyalty to our children because-even though we are gentically related and they didn't pick us-we want them to know that we aren't just genetic donors, we're family.

My best friend who lives in Pennsylvania is family because I can pick up the phone at three in the morning (her time) and call because my baby turned 5 and I needed someone to listen to me bawl. My husband's childhood friend, who even though he's young and busy with college and dating will still take time to ooh-and-ahh over my husband's exploits as Daddy, is family.

And, in your own way, you my bloggy friends are just like family. You come to my page, even though you're not obligated to. You let me share my stories with you. You offer encouragement. You give selflessly. Though I hardly expect you to be devoted to me, you certainly are here for me when I'm going through a rough patch.

I may have drawn a shorter straw in the genetic relations department, but my heart is full of the blessings of real family-and this is my tribute to you all.


Kirsty said...

I think the way you have risen above the examples and circumstances you were dealt is remarkable, and at such a young age even more so. I love the idea of family being a verb. Great post. Again, I wish I lived closer and could help you more right now. I am so glad though, that you have such a loving and devoted husband.

Muthering Heights said...

I've heard many people say that their close friends are more like family than people who are actually related to them.

I know that I feel that way about many of my close friends!

Mrs. M said...

Kirsty-You have already been such a big help! Still you're right. Hubby is everything to me-I don't know what I'd do without him!

Muthering Heights-I think the feeling is very common, especially among people in our general age group.

Robynn's Ravings said...


I just had to drop in to a few friends' places today to say thank you for your many kindnesses and then I read this! YOU POOR THING! ANYthing can happen to us but NOT OUR KIDS!!! I so hope this passes quickly and DOESN'T come each time she's sick. I will be adding all of YOU to my prayer list! Love and comfort to you today. XOXOXO

Robynn's Ravings said...

My last response was about your baby having febrile seizures. Then I read this one about your fractured fairy-tale family and it touched my heart so much.

My "family" is like yours. My friends and blog world people are closer to me than almost any family I have, which is so fractured it would take CSI to link us together. You write so profoundly and articulate so well for ANY age, but especially being in your 20's. Wise beyond your years comes to mind. I am glad you have found true relationship through the willing and honest hearts of your friends. :)

Mrs. M said...

Robynn-Thank you for the support, and for your kind words! And, of course, thank you for following me :)

I completely agree that I'm not too worried about what happens to my own health-I'd take all the germs if I knew my babies would never have so much as a sniffle!

And I am very blessed to have such quality friends (real and bloggy)-and doubly blessed to be married to my very best friend of all!