What is a family? Who counts as family? You could ask a thousand people and you would probably get a thousand different answers. Many of us in the *ALI community have bee forced to examine our definition of family a lot closer than many people do and most of us have come to the conclusion that it is a lot more than blood ties that make a family. When you are faced with needing help to build your family, whether that help is just a doctor and the right meds, adoption, or donor sperm, eggs or even embryos, all of a sudden, family takes on different meaning entirely. I'm trying to teach my kids that family can be different for everyone and, that as long as there is a deep and abiding love, respect, and commitment between the individuals, it doesn't matter if there is even a biological tie.
In my case, I am blessed to have been born into a pretty wonderful family. Sure, we have our issues, but then, who doesn't? But, due to the generous nature of my parents and my mother's tendency to want to rescue the world, I learned early on that the definition of family is flexible. There were people who were brought into our family years ago because my mom or my sister saw a need that triggered their urge to protect and help. Many of those individuals still come to family events and a few of them have kids that call my parents Grandma and Grandpa. Heck, my mom's desire to help people has meant she has never had to truly go through empty nest syndrome. Despite the fact that we are all grown up with families of our own, my parents have an 18 yr old living with them. One of my mom's students last year was graduating and the presence of a few ass clowns in her life left her with no place to go. Rather than let this promising young woman flounder and possibly slip through the cracks, my mom and dad opened their home and their hearts to her. She is starting to see that there are people who follow through on promises and are able to love and care for her and, well, it looks like our family has grown by one more member.
My family doesn't just consist of my biological sisters either. I have two lovely sisters that share my biology and I have friends who are so near and dear to my heart that I consider them my sisters...my sisters by choice. These women are people my kids call Aunt. These women cross the entire spectrum of life styles and family compositions. One dear friend is not married and is considering growing her family through adoption or possibly embryo donation. Another of my sisters by choice is married to a man who was adopted and this same woman has no contact with her birth family due to behavior on their part that destroyed their right to claim family ties. Yet another of my sisters by choice is sharing her life and her children with a wonderful woman who makes her happier than I've ever seen her. Between the family members I was blessed with by biology and the family members I was blessed with through choice, I have loved ones of just about every race, creed, and life style choice. I didn't set out to accumulate a group like this but my parents open-minded approach to families allowed me to open my heart and life to this.
I hope by watching my parents and us and these friends who became sisters, my boys will be open to whatever method of family growth life brings them. I also hope that once they grow up and have wives or husbands of their own the realize we will accept and love their families no matter how they come about. As long as they love each other and treat each other with respect, we will recognize their family bonds. If you live together, love together, and make memories together, you are family.
A Yahoo news story about the modern definition of family indicates that people are becoming more and more accepting of families that don't fit the stereotypical norms and, it's about damned time. How do you define family and what does it mean to you?
*ALI = Adoption Loss & Infertility