What Defines Family

It has always befuddled me how some siblings can be raised in the same family, under the same roof and turn out polar opposites. I don’t mean the normal personality predispositions and differing affinities for various likes and dislikes, but how some fight to get on or remain on a good path and others go “dark force” rogue without any regard for others.

Every family has some level of dysfunction I have come to learn. Some prefer to keep their issues quiet and others just may be more blatant and broadcasted for the world to see. I guess it would be impossible for a group of humans to think they could ever cohabitant together or remain in close relationships without their own unique set of challenges.

Families break apart every day. Sometimes we have to become emotionally disconnected from certain blood relatives to remove that cancer from our lives.  It’s reality that I’ve accepted but what I can’t accept is that happening within my own children.

As a mother, I’ve begun prepping my kids to always remain close, despite their differences and regardless of what life brings their way. Our twenty minute car ride to school each morning, although hair pulling and cortisol inducing at times, provides prime opportunities to reinforce this.

That is, ironically, in between this joy:

“Ugh, she is SUCH an idiot!”

She cleans your sink, kid. Zip it.

“I HATE him and wish he had never been born!”

How would you feel if that was the last thing you said to him?

“Ha ha! This is hilarious. She is crying like a baby.”

YOU are about to be crying like a baby if I have to pull over.

“Mommy, I got dat zombie. Mwahahaha.”

Whoop whoop! Wait, I mean, thou shalt not kill.

“Stop kicking my seat!”

“Mom, slow down! Wait, can you go back? There’s a Charizard!” (Pokemon Go…and no I don’t turn around)

“Mom, you are so mean.”

“Mom, mama, mommy, mamaamaaaaa!”


It’s chaos and I parent the best I can through it.

My children remaining close, even though they are at that stage they want to kill each other, is an incredibly important goal to me. Why? Other than the obvious, I’ve witnessed the long suffering, the kind that you don’t ever get over, soul heavy pain of betrayal by blood. I don’t want that as my legacy.

I take what I’ve observed over the years about what defines real family and remind my kiddos of these things.

  • We tend to cling to family members that are transparent and accept us for being us
  • We eventually avoid those with a vengeance that have developed a long standing pattern of repeated harm
  • Just as in friendship, trust is earned.
  • Unlike friendship, trust and family tend to go hand in hand. Therefore, the disloyalty scars more deeply when dished out by a blood relative.
  • Going to church and claiming to be devout Christians has zero merit within family dynamics. We know how people really are when related. Actions validate…period.
  • Children remember so easily. To this day, I can pinpoint exact moments in my childhood where I felt unconditional love from some family members, conditional love from others or little to no love at all. Interesting how those feelings carry over into our adulthood.

I also tell them that families are a lot like marriages in that you have to work diligently to keep them together. As it takes two people and not just one to remain in a positive state of matrimony, the same goes for family. If one refuses to prioritize the relationship with respect and love, then a break up may be in store.

Since most everyone reading this will have family dysfunction of some sort they are dealing with, I say this:

What is the definition of family?

It’s a coveted title we give to those we place the highest value on and who value us the same in return. Family consists of individuals whom we have developed a mutual relationship of trust, respect and admiration.

If we have people that share our common ancestry, blood and DNA that don’t fit this definition, then the good news is that we get to choose others to become part of our family.

I choose, you choose and my children will learn to choose who gets placed in their inner circles. That close knit group of people we call “family.” My hope is that when they have grown into highly successful adults, when the baby daddy and I are gone, that nothing will sever their closeness: not distance, not wickedness, not spouses and certainly not money.