What makes a family?

My grandson has been struggling with this question since his stepmom left several months ago–and it came up during the Thanksgiving holidays.

It’s a good question. What does make a family?

A few years ago, that would have been easy to answer. A family was a mom, a dad, and probably 2-3 kids. But now? Well, maybe mom, dad, and a couple of kids…maybe mom, dad, kids, and grandparents…maybe mom and kids…dad and kids…dad, stepmom, and kids (his and hers)…husband and wife…couple who are committed partners (heterosexual or homosexual partners)…single person…mom, stepdad, and kids (his and hers)…┬áThere are a number of different iterations that make a family.

Our family has some interesting dynamics… Our two kids are 15 years apart in age–one is ours by birth, the other is ours by adoption. Our son-in-law is a year older than my husband. I am 16 years older than our daughter. I’m 4 years younger than my husband, but the age difference looked more like 10 years when we were first married. (Talk about getting some interesting looks through the years!) We’ve had 3 grandkids–2 of them are still living…the other died on his 21st birthday (he was a Marine).

Some of the combinations above imply some form of brokenness–but does that mean that those who are left aren’t a family? That’s what my grandson thought…but he and his dad had a chance to talk through that. Yes, sometimes families are broken, but that doesn’t mean that they are (or were) bad…and they (the two of them) can still be a family.

But what makes a family? Is is birth? Is it a legal piece of paper? What is it?

Blood relationships don’t necessarily make a family. People can be related by blood but not care a bit about the others–in fact, can abuse those they are related to. But blood relationships can be an important part of making a family…

Legal actions can also be an important part of helping to make families–connecting together those who might otherwise have no one else.

Choice is also part of it. For many years, we had a member of our family who had no legal status or blood relationship, but whom we had chosen to draw in–and who chose to allow herself to be drawn in and connected with us.

There’s a saying I like: “Home is where they have to take you in, no matter what.” Not because there is no choice–but because family members love each other so much there is nothing else they can do…an unwillingness to let anything break the bonds that connect.

So where is your home? and your family?