Go ahead, define family

Growing Up FisherThe concept of the traditional family is changing, like it or not. The Norman Rockwell days of a two parent household with a mom and a dad are no longer the standard family arrangement, and I’m okay with that. I’ll let psychologist and religious folks sort out the social and psychological implications of this, but in my experience family doesn’t only consist of blood relatives, rather “family” is a community.

My mother, father and sister are the core of my immediate family, and they are my rocks. But I also have other women whom I’ve known most of my life who I consider my sisters. “Sisters from different misters,” as I refer to them, and their children call me “Aunt Dawn.” They are my family, and I am theirs.

I’m a Gen Xer, the lost generation. We are the children of the baby boomers, the generation to grow up in a world of the AIDS crisis and the dawning of the internet. We’re also the first generation to be raised by a significant number of single moms, and they called us “latch key kids.” We didn’t always have a parent at home when we got off the school bus.

I say “we,” speaking of my generation in general. However, my mom was a stay-at-home-mom. She was always there for us when we needed her, and for that I am eternally grateful. She was and is a strong woman, and taught us what it means to speak your mind and stand up for yourself in a man’s world. I grew up with a loving, nurturing father who worked hard and provided for his family. He taught his daughters what a strong work ethic means and looks like. My father showed us that a man can be sensitive, caring and still be a man’s man fixing cars, doing the plumbing and building playhouses and school projects.

But growing up, many of my friends had both parents working outside of the home, or had a single mom or dad. I had friends who were raised by their grandparents, and that seems to be happening more and more with my generation’s children. Nowadays we have families of all shapes and sizes, families with two dads or two moms. We have blended families joined together from what used to be called “broken” families from divorce situations. We have single parent families who raise their children and do a fine job at it!

Of course there are problems in every community, in every family, but I believe a family is what you make of it. Isn’t the point of raising children to create an environment where they thrive and grow up mentally and physically prepared to be healthy adults contributing to the good of society? Sure we have bullying. That’s been a problem since the dawn of the human race. However, today we have to deal with social media, and bullying can go viral in a matter of minutes. (Thank god I didn’t grow up in this era!) And kids with gay parents are certainly a target.

I don’t have children, and I’ll be the first one to point that out. I don’t know first-hand the challenges and gratification that comes with raising a child. But I know every child needs to be loved, cared for, have boundaries set, and they need to hear you say you love them and want them around. Oh, and they need to be told “no!” once in a while.

There are two shows on TV right now that I think highlight the changing family dynamic that has become part of the fabric of America, and they’re both on NBC.

Growing up Fisher is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Henry after his parents get a divorce. He has an older sister named Katie. His father is blind lawyer, and his mother is going through…well a sort of mid-life crisis. She’s not doing anything crazy, but she’s trying to find herself. (Aren’t we all?) Henry’s father is teaching him to never set limits for himself. “You know I went through law school blind, right?” The father wants both of his children to set the bar high for themselves. The pilot of the series is about Henry’s parents sitting down with their kids and telling them they are getting a divorce. This is Hollywood after all, so you know there’s always a “hug and learn” part at the end. But we see this family—which has become in many ways the typical American family—navigate their way through understanding this new phase in all of their lives. And it doesn’t have to be messy for any of them! They’re still a family. They still communicate, participate, and support each other. They still love each other.

The other show really highlights the changing definition of family. It’s called About a Boy. The show is adapted from the book by Nick Hornby. His book was first made into a movie in 2002 starring Hugh Grant. I love, love the movie. It’s much more snarky and dark, like the book, than the TV show is. I was quite skeptical when I started seeing advertisements for the show on NBC because I loved the movie so much. Watch the movie if you haven’t!

The show centers on a boy named Marcus, and he has a quite an interesting mother played by the delightful Minnie Driver. His mother is English, and she’s a hippie, the granola-crunching, yoga-loving, don’t-trust-men kind of mom. They move to San Francisco, the hippie/gay capital of the US, so they should fit in just fine, right?? Not quite. Even Marcus and his mom are too weird for San Fran. They move in next door to a bachelor named Will in his early 40s who lives off the royalties of a Christmas song he wrote years ago. His lifestyle is a bit loose. He still thinks he’s in his 20s, and loves chasing women. However all of his friends have grown up, have jobs and families etc….

Marcus takes a liking to Will and wants Will to teach him how to be cool and not be made fun of at school. Marcus’s mom, Fiona doesn’t like Will and doesn’t trust him. However, Fiona starts to recognize that maybe she keeps Marcus wrapped up in her apron strings a little too tightly, and sometimes Will actually has some good advice. Marcus comes in useful when Will tries to pick up chicks, and on one occasion he pretends Marcus is his sick son suffering from leukemia so he can join a single mom’s self-help group. As if! Don’t worry, he gets found out.

Will’s got some issues, for sure, but he really does mean well, just misguided at times. Will does end up helping Marcus and his mother several times, and he offers some sound advice for them both. In return, Marcus is teaching Will what it means to be a grownup and take responsibilities for his actions. Somehow these three are forming a family, in a sense they’re becoming a community of people looking out for each other. It’s quite heartwarming.

I’ve given up judging people and putting them in a box to help me define what a family should be or *can* be. If a child is safe, loved and nurtured and in turn becomes a good person, isn’t that the best we can hope for? Isn’t that what we’re shooting for anyway?

 

Post by Dawn

 

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One thought on “Go ahead, define family

  1. The family as most call it is Dad, Mom and the children. Family is what you make it to be. I have a large family with numbers of sons and daughters brorhers and sisters. All because i like it that way. For years when we first came to Texas we were the only ones in our family here in Texas so we became a church family. We had friends that called us family and some to this day are still part of my family. But like a family we all have gone in different ways. Family is a strong body of people that love each other no matter how far a part you are or what you have done. Your still family. We are a family like it or not. We came from the place. We all need family. Like it or not you are my brother or sister sorry. 🙂 peace and Love

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