F is for Family
Who is in your family? What makes a Family?
There is the Family you’re born to:
I used to be part of a small family. Mum, Dad, one brother, one sister. That was us. We had relatives overseas to us, but I didn’t know them as well as I might, they were names and photographs mostly. I grew up with Dad using the phrase “Bob’s your Uncle” I had no idea what it meant for years, as I did have an uncle Bob, and thought Dad had made up the phrase. Imagine my surprise when everyone else started saying it…
It wasn’t really until I had grown into the snotty teenager that I started to understand the importance of Family. To drive someone nuts but not drive them away was actually humbling.
I discovered loyalty to family one strange night… I wanted to stay at a party and my sister dragged me away (thus protecting me from myself and certain month-long grounding for being where I shouldn’t be) … if a girl could die of embarrassment, I was sure I would, so she said for me to just blame her: say she was being mean and spoiling it, therefore saving face myself. But I couldn’t. Loyalty determined I couldn’t lie and blame my sister for something she didn’t do… least of all when she was actually trying to help me. I know, I’m weird, and probably the only teenager who couldn’t either lie, or blame someone else! I wonder what she remembers of that night.
My brother apparently thought I was adorable as a child … up to the point where I started pestering him and his friends, he was a bit older and therefore exciting, intriguing and rather cool in a geeky sort of way. Clearly I was none of those things, ‘cos he didn’t think I was adorable any more.
There’s the Family you choose:
A few very special people became the aunts and uncles I didn’t have nearby, and they were very special people indeed. These were the people who my parents made friends with soon after arriving in this strange country on the other side of the world to my previous life.
Mu was amazing, she always looked so glamorous … her kids were similar age and so we all hung out together. I loved Mu very easily. After she moved away, she was the holiday destination of choice! At her home up north, I learnt to make pizza, ride a horse, fry an egg on the hot concrete, and how to hate her son. Hmmmm I used to like him.
My darling Auntie Frankie is still treasured today, I love her dearly even though I don’t see nearly as much of her as I would like, or probably should. When I was the snottiest of snotty teenagers my parents went away for a holiday, and my brother (who no longer thought I was adorable) refused to have me stay at home so I got shipped off to my beloved Auntie Frankie… She wanted Me. She had a choice, and she wanted me to stay with her.
There are a few others, couples, who I grew up with having in the wings. Some of whom I lost touch with, and some who I hugged at the recent funeral, so glad they were there because they are the family I’ve had and loved to have over those growing years. They were chosen by someone else, but still accepted by me as family (except that boy who I just did not like any more!).
Through my young adult years I drifted away from family and wandered through friendships looking for something.
Then I met a bloke in particular, at a time in particular and by choice as well as chance… redefined Family. Firstly, I meet his which was chaotic and huge ~ and fantastic! Kids for miles, siblings all over the place, aunts and uncles plenty. I had never known such a family. As a whole they were awesome, individually of course, some relationships were better than others.
Family of your own
We bought a house and started a family of our own. I had worked out what it was I’d been looking for; a family of my own. Sometimes when two people appear to be looking for the same things, their partnership is blessed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with us and after three children we parted company.
Well, that made for interesting family dynamics I can tell you.
I promptly lost some of the family I’d inherited, well most actually. But as the father of my children, I didn’t quite lose the one I expected to. Some family you’re stuck with. It was ok to start with but the inevitable happened and we each got new lives and new people, each with complete families of their own.
Families you inherit: this one is tricky… family dynamics crash course number two.
My kids were in their own … shall we say, hierarchy due to ages. We have the eldest, the youngest and the middle. Their dad’s family group became 2 adults and six kids… and their mum’s half did the same.
My beloved and I got married a couple of years later, and the kids all were very much part of our wedding. We worked hard on respecting boundaries, and the ‘other family’ for each bunch of kids.
At this point I would like to say: No, we were not the Brady Bunch, it was nothing like that! For one, we had no housekeeper; two, there were no script writers helping me sort out domestics; and three, both of our ex-spouses were very much alive and of course had a lot to do with the children still. (The Brady’s were both widowed).
I had only known one way to raise my kids: My way, which was what I learnt from my parents. All of a sudden, I had to try to integrate another method that three other kids had been used to all of their (short) life, and it simply didn’t always fit. I’m aware there were … shall we say, hiccups, in both the other households.
Family you’re stuck with: remember my much-loved Mu with a son I couldn’t stand? Sometimes there is family you get stuck with. Just like my brother was sometimes stuck with an annoying little sister he didn’t want any more (I think we’ve grown out of that) there is now a bunch of kids stuck with a person in their midst that they didn’t ask for. It wasn’t always Me that was the unwanted one either.
That’s the obvious stuff. Our family – in a blender. We had a lot of laughs, but there was a lot of crap too.
The not-so-obvious bit is all the other family… he inherited my lot. I inherited his lot. He had grown up in one family, made one of his own and then joined me to try a new one together. I had grown up in one family, made one of my own, and then opened my home and heart to his. It was strange. It was hard. It was rather fruitless at times.
Add to that the rest of ‘his family’ because of course the very day we said “I do” we promptly accepted each other’s family and now we have just the one. Our family.
Dynamics are difficult to say the least.
Those little kids that stood at that wedding are all grown now… the babies are legal adults and voting age, each of the middles are making headway with their own lives, and the eldest each are embarking on their own adventures. One is travelling overseas and the other is engaged. They each have their own families in mind. I think they are discovering their own meaning of Family.
I understand why there are so many ‘in-law’ jokes.
There was a bunch of people at that wedding, they’re supposed to be there approving and supporting. Personally, I say don’t go if you don’t approve.
There is a family group I haven’t touched on yet, and they are a very important part.
The Family you find: I have some sisters now I didn’t used to have. And a few guys that I really like having around. A guy who is the partner to my sister-in-law is my.. brother?-in-law. My circles are expanding, each group of people in my life is now there more by choice than anything else.
Each of these people have a part to play, an important role in my life.
I have children and step-children. Nieces and nephews, some by blood, some by marriage. Brothers and sisters – my own and in-laws. I have a Mum and a Mother-in-law, sadly no Dads any more. Frankie is still my beloved Auntie who loves me by choice, and I have a collection of friends both old and new, close and far from home.
I don’t know specifically who I am to each of them, but I do know they are all family to me.
So I’ll ask again:
Who is in your family?
What makes a Family?