Most of us have a family we were born into, and a set of relatives that comes with that. And I often hear people say that they find it really hard to get on with a brother, or sister, or parent. This always feels hurtful because we have an expectation that these are the people who should care most for us. But it’s not really that surprising, because each of us is a unique personality, and we don’t get on with every other personality.
I like to think that we really have two sorts of family: the one we were born into and related to by blood, and the one we create for ourselves. This is our real family, because it is those we meet who become our mutual support network, people we feel genuine love and concern for. If we’re lucky, some of our blood ties are also in our ‘personalised’ family – we choose to have them as an important part of our lives – but it’s not compulsory.
And because this is a family we create throughout our lives, we are not constrained by numbers or categories or age – we can create according to any criteria we choose. I have lots of sisters and brothers, and many sons and daughters. When I was younger, I had more favourite aunts and uncles and elder brothers and sisters – now I think I’m probably the matriarch of my lovely created family!
When I was a child, we were encouraged to call friends of the family auntie or uncle. I think that was based on a form of showing respect because they were adults and we were children, but it also indicated that my parents felt they were part of the family really. And my favourite ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ were in this category. I felt loved and cared for by them as if they were real family, and of course they were!
So who have you got in your family? Let’s recognise our closeness and love for these special people who have agreed to be part of our family in this lifetime, just as we have chosen to have them in our family. Some of them will be very close to us: lots of contact and mutual support; some of them will have gone their own way, yet still be there if you need them; and some of them will be that somewhat eccentric or awkward one that you can’t help but love anyway!
Cherish these people – they are your real family. And if you meet someone you wish were part of your family, nurture the relationship and bring them in. You really can create the family you would love to have.