What is a family?

24 Mar

The other day, my daughter posted a question to her status on Facebook, inquiring what family meant to other people.  She stated that her family wasn’t the “normal” kind.

That made me think.

What the heck is a “normal” family anyhow?  Does “normal” even need to be considered in terms of family?

Each family is so unique, so different, and so much an example of a “micro-culture” that figuring out what is “normal” is virtually impossible.  We have the perception of what “normal” is from television, but I have never met a family that was really like the Cleavers or any other family on television.

Those programs had nothing to do with reality.  Those people were neat, nice, polite, and clean.  All the time.  That’s absolutely NOT reality.

This so called “normal” family is made up of two very patient and understanding parents–a man and a woman.  The woman is slightly younger than the man.  The man has a job.  The woman might also have a job of her own.  The children all are always clean, well behaved, and have their homework done.  They get good grades, get along with their peers, and are always considerate (at least by the end of the program) of their peers.  Nobody ever swears.

Uh huh.

How many of those moms ended up working overtime until four in the morning, only to drive home and pass out on the couch, where at about six in the morning, her eighteen month old toddler throws  a can of baked beans, which hits her in the face, causing an impressive amount of blood, swearing, and confusion?  How many of those moms have walked into the kitchen just as their five year old takes a tumble, knocks over a five gallon container of vegetable oil, which then proceeds to coat the entire kitchen floor?  Another great scenario was coming home from working all night and after our four month old boxer puppy was left unsupervised for half an hour in the house…to discover that she’d had an accident because she had diarrhea, had then run through it…and jumped on every single bed in the house and dragged a large quantity of toys through the mess as well.

Yeah.

Try not swearing.

The face smashed by a can of beans got an ice pack, and the toddler was told not to throw things in the house.  The vegetable oil was soaked up with a large stack of newspapers, then the floor (which was still VERY greasy) had another layer laid over it because we HAD to go RIGHT NOW.  When I got home, the papers had soaked up the remainder, and it just needed a normal mop job.  Whew.  The puppy mess…well, the only uncontaminated room was the very tiny bathroom.  I changed clothes, cleaned up puppy, loaded puppy into truck and picked up daughter from babysitter…and went and bought a crate for the puppy.  That just left a lot of cleaning, laundry, opening doors for fresh air, and a few choice words mumbled as child and puppy were sent outside to play for the duration…all before going to bed so that I could go to work again that night.

Family can be almost anything.  But they aren’t perfect.  Most families are related by blood and marriage, but they don’t have to be.  Some families are one kind, others are another.  Their unity is created by bonds of many kinds too.  Just because your family is unique does not mean its not “normal”–normal is something dreamed up in Hollywood, not from reality!  Unique families are great–they can be good or bad, we can have relatives we wish we could stuff in a closet, and others we can’t wait to visit again.  Families are dynamic units, continually evolving and changing too.  The family that I knew as a child is vastly different than the one my children knew, and my granddaughter will have a whole different kind of family to deal with.  We can hate our siblings, be indifferent to them, or be very close…and still be normal!  Normal is what we determine it to be, not meeting some fictional standard dreamed up by screen writers.

Family is united by affection, familiarity, and common bonds.  We owe our families a lot, and our families owe us a lot.  Those exchanged “debts” aren’t about money and favors so much as life debts.  We learn from our families, we help our families, and we get the same as we give.  We fuss and fight, we hug and kiss, we laugh and we cry, and sometimes it seems we only get together in times of sorrow and grief.

Families.  We love to complain about our own, we love to complain about our significant other’s families and their “weird” ways–face it, the ONLY family that is normal…is your own!  Because it is  normal to you.

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