What makes up a family? How would you define your family?
For me, these are unusual holidays. My Dad died when I was seven and my Mother never remarried. There were no Aunts or Uncles and my grandparents had died before I was born. An only child, I grew up with one parent just like many children do today. I used to buy my Mom Father’s day cards as well as Mother’s day cards. Hallmark cards have picked up on this trend! They’ve expanded it. You can now even buy cards for your in-laws, thanking them for having the sender’s spouse. Strange!
I have several single women friends who adopted children. They too are the sole caregiver for their children just like my Mom was. When my Mom died in 2005 it struck me that I was now an orphan. Even though I was an adult, this was a strange identity for me and it left a very empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. It still does.
My best friend since college is a single parent with an adopted daughter. I have a great photo of us in a frame. The caption on the frame states, “Friends are the Family you Choose”. Those words ring true for me. I know they ring true for her and for many others I know. We don’t get to choose our parents. We don’t get to choose our siblings, if we even have any. So often the real relatives don’t get along anyway – different personalities, different goals, different belief systems can cause more conflict than harmony. These differences seem to be magnified when there is a care-giving event or illness of a parent. All the internalized stuff from childhood seems to bubble up to the surface. Sometimes conflicts ensue.
Friendship is work. It takes commitment. I believe this is why family dynamics can have great divides in them. Related by birth, not by choice, there often isn’t the commitment to make the relationships work. Think about your situation. Does this describe your relationships with your siblings? If so, do you want to make a change? Are you willing to do the work? More importantly, are your siblings?
On family holidays, choose to embrace your family if you enjoy one another. If not, embrace your good friends and celebrate with them. Celebrate your children and tell them how special they are to you.
This is the choice we all have.