Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes a family. The following definitions were posted on the internet and I find them to be somewhat limiting:
“a group of parents and children living together in a household”
Well, yes, but supposing the children have grown and moved away. Aren’t the parents and children still a family?
“a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, ..., whether dwelling together or not”
Ah-ha. That’s a little better, but still very limited.
“all the descendents of a common ancestor”
“any group of persons closely related by blood”
Well, now, just a minute. Supposing a child is adopted into a family and that child is now a daughter or a son in that family. The child is not descended from the same ancestors as the other members of the family, but the child is still a member of that family.There’s more than one way to get into a family. As far as the concepts of marriage and adoption are concerned - they are closely related. Marriage is a legal contract. Adoption is a legal contract. So? There is absolutely no difference between marriage and adoption in terms of forming a family.
What are other ways people get into a family? Well, “living together” is a bigee. Come on. Living together is out-stripping marriage as an accepted way of forming a family. I’m old fashioned, and prefer marriage, but it seems that sometimes it’s cheaper just to live together. Plus it is expensive to divorce if it turns out the married couple don’t like each other.
All of the other definitions I found to be limited one way or another. Some descriptions do include single parent families. However, the definition of family still needs to be radically expanded. I would add families where there are no parents, per se, but other adults acting as parents such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, etc. AND, we must add families with no children because they are a family also. What about single people? Do they compose a family? Or does the word “family” connote more than one person? Well, think again: suppose a single person has pets? Must a family be composed only of human beings? Not in my book.
What is more important than WHO is in the family and HOW the family was formed? You guessed it! FAMILY VALUES like love, loyalty, patience, honesty, kindness, trust, forgiveness, and generosity.
Jaycee Dugard was abducted from her parents when she was eleven years old. That was in 1991. She was found alive in 2009. In her story, “A Stolen Life,” she writes: “Genes, I have learned, do not make a family. Families are the people that stick around through good and bad times.”
So, dear friends, what is your concept of family?
Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: A family is where love abounds.