198 Days ’til 40: How We Define Family

07 Aug

It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons. ~ Johann Schiller

Family:  A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space. ~Evan Esar

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.  Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.  ~Jane Howard

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city. ~ George Burns

I often find myself thinking about family – what family is, what family means.  It is not an easy topic to tackle, as all of us bring our personal family experiences, laden with a myriad of emotions.  I found that, for me, family is part of my history and identity.  It means a lot to me.

When I was younger I fantasized about having many children – I believe this was part of my longing for a strong sense of belonging, a feeling that I was part of something much greater than myself.  Being part of a large, loving family would be something much larger than myself.  Growing up family was not always easy and being part of a family unit was not always easy.  I am sure many share similar realities.

When I was in university I first understood that family can be redefined.  For the first time in my life I felt I had a very strong, supportive family – though none of them were biologically related to me in any way.  My friends, my community, became my family.  This family meant so much to me and touched my heart deeply because they were a family I chose and they also chose me.  They did not have to love and support me, but we were part of a community and we bonded in meaningful ways and were there for each other.  I am still close to so many of my friends (family) from my university days and their presence in my life was and remains a precious gift.

When I was in my late 20’s I moved overseas… suddenly I was in a place where I had no biological relatives (not even remote ones) near me.  This was scary.  In fact, this reality propelled me to start genealogy research.  My goal – to find one living relative living in the same country I reside in… this turned out to be a much more challenging task than I had anticipated (though it did eventually occur).

Of course, the genealogy research, which has led me to contact with many distant cousins I never knew I had, has brought me back to that definition of family – is blood the tie that binds us, or friendship?  I would like to believe that, in an ideal world, it would be both.  That we would enjoy our blood relatives as much as we do any of our friends and that our blood relatives would be people we want to spend time with – what a gift that is!

Our current nuclear family consists of myself, my partner and our two (adopted) children.  We have lots of love and a lot of fun – none of us are biologically related, but it is clear that our connections are deep and real and that our family unit is strong and blessed.

Today, 198 days ’til 40, I am happy for my family – in all definitions and forms.




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19 responses to “198 Days ’til 40: How We Define Family

  1. queenoffamilosity

    August 7, 2012 at 01:52

    I think you found the secret. Take joy in your family no matter the form.

  2. buckwheatsrisk

    August 7, 2012 at 03:07

    right now i don’t know anyone where i live, but before i moved, my family were my closest friends. my blood family is not in my life.

  3. Fay Moore

    August 7, 2012 at 04:20

    Once I understood that we choose our family — it’s those who surround us who love us just the way we are — I felt set free from the angst my biological family caused me. Those fortunate enough to have a wonderful biological family won’t understand this.

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 20:59

      What a great comment and point! Yes, there is a great freedom in knowing we can create our own family and support networks!

  4. mskatykins

    August 7, 2012 at 12:22

    400 – I am so impressed (I know, I’m like a broken record!) by the way you manage to create such interesting, relevant and inspiring posts – this is definitely one of them! You’re right, families are not easy. I also found a great network of friends – which I considered to feel like family – once I was at university. It is difficult to make new, meaningful connections. To give you an example, we (my fiance and me) are home for a week currently. He said yesterday that he’s not had much of a chance to meet up with friends because they all have new lives… It’s true. People’s lives and priorities change which is sad in some ways. I don’t think family or friendships often come easily – each person needs to work at it in order to keep that relationship alive, you know?

    Great, great post! I also think that adoption is a wonderful thing to be able to do. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 20:57

      Thank you so much for your very kind words!!!!! Such a good point, sometimes friends shift and then we have to create a new family/ support network – which can be tough… it seems some friendships are forever and others are seasonal – and you cannot necessarily predict which friendships will fall into which category.

  5. viveka

    August 7, 2012 at 13:12

    Family … is the once we love – then it doesn’t matter if there is a true family blood running in our vain or not. My friends are my family – because my family is only my mother and me.

  6. The Quiet Borderline (back in hospital)

    August 7, 2012 at 18:58

    Here here. I hear you. Great post. Just shows you how important human contact is whether you’re blood related or not.

  7. Spider42

    August 9, 2012 at 13:24

    That’s actually a pretty enlightened and intelligent view of things, kudos.

    Personally I’ve had some very serious ups and downs with various parts of an large/extended family over the years – some I love dearly and some I could happily never see again.
    Basically though I find it best to let each relationship be what it is and I agree with your point about both blood and friendship being relevant because there are some non-blood folks in my life I would trust with my life and vice-versa and the same for a select number of my biological family.
    I think that in the end the broader philosophy may vary but in essence for me family is what you make it during your lifetime and more often than not it (like most everything) changes and evolves with us over our years.


    • 400daystil40

      August 9, 2012 at 20:14

      Thank you so much! I agree with you completely…. family is indeed what we make it and it is something that evolves – it certainly has for me! 🙂

  8. The Presents of Presence

    August 10, 2012 at 05:22

    Family consists of those you choose to call family. xo

  9. Lucianus Mauricius

    August 10, 2012 at 07:24

    Blood has nothing to do with family. It can be diluted by several means and leaving to wonder what on earth made you part of this so called nucleus. I’ve lived alone for 14 years now and for 10 of those years I was 6000 miles away from home, thus my family were my friends and my coworkers and my lovers on and off. At the end of the day though the only family you have is yourself.


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