“I have so much more than I ever realized.”
When I was a kid, I used to believe that family consisted of the typical white-picket fence depiction: a father, mother, brother, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have all of that.
I became mad that I was different and was jealous of everyone else that had the ginormous, loving, well-connected and exact version of the white-picket fence. To me, having that kind of family didn’t just mean I could be normal, it also meant I could have an identity—and a better understanding of who I am. For most of my childhood, it was only my hard-working single mother, my two younger brothers and myself.
None of that—I thought—told me who I am.
Neither one of my parents got along with their siblings and most lived far away. Both sets of my grandparents had passed away when I was very young. My older half-sister that I shared the same dad with was barely in my life, and the same went for my dad as well. The family that I had—my mom, and brothers—just seemed so small and insignificant. I wanted more. I wanted it all.
It seems disappointing that some kids experience this feeling of unfulfillment, but they do, and I was one of them. I couldn’t see beyond what society wanted me to see as “right” and “normal”.
I only knew that if I did not have what everyone had then my life would seem worthless. I was frustrated that my mom had to drive my brothers and I once a year sitting in a car for eight or more hours to go see my dad for our joint-custody visits. I was upset that I only had one aunt and uncle living nearby and during holidays at their house we felt out of place amongst their family because it wasn’t necessarily ours. I felt like I missed out on calling someone “Grandma” or “Grandpa” and listening to heart warming stories of their youth.
If I had any of that then wouldn’t I be able to figure out who I am?
It took a while for me to see that I had more than enough family. I forgotten that although my mom drove my brothers and I for those eight or more hours once a year, we also had so much fun during the car ride. My mom would make pit stops and buy each of us our favorite meals, we’d play games in the car and harmoniously belted out the words to Whitney Houston’s song “I will always love you” whenever it played on the radio.
We’d laugh, bicker and joke, but we’d always be together.
I forgot that at my Aunt and Uncle’s house for the holidays we got to see our two cousins and share a special kind of friendship with them as kids. I forgot that although I didn’t have grandparents to call my own, there were other children who didn’t even have a parent. Just my mom and my two brothers were even better than enough.
In time I realized I had the power to make my family grow. I gave birth to my son. I have a child whose love is so great it fulfills my very soul. I also realized that blood didn’t just give me my family, but true friendship did as well. I learned who I could trust to be there when I fall and be there when I rise. I learned that others outside my kin, such as one of my fiercest friends, Dijuana, could love me without condition, regardless of how different we looked, felt, or are.
My family is bigger in size now, but that isn’t the reason why they are my family. My family is mine because our love has grown bigger and deeper. I never needed the white-picket fence depiction to determine what my identity is, because I should have known all along who I am.
I am the daughter of an exceptionally kick-ass single mother. I am the older sister of two amazingly supportive and doting brothers. I am the friend of friends who feel more like my sisters. I am the young mother of a wonderfully kind-hearted and undoubtedly extraordinary son.
I am the individual who was raised to see different as beautiful, because in a world full of societies idea of normal, most us are abnormal.
Family can be anyone—whether you are related or not, have many or a few, or even just one other person. The dictionary may explain that family is lineage, descents, bloodlines, etc., but my definition of family is eternally unreserved.