Lately I’ve done alot of thinking about families. When mentally composing this blog entry in the tub I started with the thought that I’ve been lucky with my particular families–then I realised that isn’t entirely true. But more on that in a minute.
We’re coming up on the time of year when the emphasis on families is ramped up into overdrive–by January there will hardly be a person left standing because we’ll all be rendered into puddles of weepy drunken tears about how our families don’t live up to the Holiday Specials. Few of us are Cleavers or Cosbys or even the Alan Thicke family whose last name escapes me at the moment. In a conversation with Ivy last week, she brought up a friend in recovery who is still trying to achieve a relationship with her father that doesn’t include him belittling her. That led to a larger discussion about families in general. About how many people don’t have great ones, how many people spend long stretches of their lives trying to rebuild their families into one they are better suited to, like a bridge of toy blocks. About how that seldom works and so those people drink, do drugs or write episodes of Lost.
That’s why I’m a huge fan of the non-traditional family. Don’t get me wrong–I still believe in the idea of family. But when you get right down to it, the things people want from family when they talk about it are unconditional love, acceptance, nurturing and care. And a lot of times folks are not able to get that in their Origin Family. People are fallible. People are human. People are often lost. And they can’t always give those things to others. So the way I see it, we’ve all got two choices. We can bang our heads against a brick wall and fret over what obviously doesn’t work. Or we can accept it for what it is and make a family of our own. We can assemble, out of the friends and lovers and pets and houseplants those same pieces. Love, acceptance, nurturing and care are out there for the taking, if you just look. You can, with a bit of work, make a family that works for you.
And that’s the point I wanted to make from the beginning. I did grow up in a good Origin Family. We do have those heartwarming moments. And I’ve been blessed to find my soulmate when I was very young. That is the greatest wealth of my life. But even though I am surrounded by these people who love me and whom I love in return, we always work at it. A friend who stayed with us a couple of weeks ago mentioned that we were always apologising to one another. I pointed out that may be one reason we are still happily married after 20 years–we work to show one another consideration. Even in my own Origin Family we had to work through rough patches.
Families take work. All families. And I happen to believe that if you can’t get your Origin Family to work with you, then it’s a perfectly sane and acceptable alternative to make your own, better family.