Cousins

14 06 2009

The past few days have been both great and un-nerving.  I have entered the ranks of moms in my family – officially.  Yesterday was the adoption party and quite a bit of people turned out both from my family and Shaun’s family.  It got difficult explaining familial relations at several points – like my aunt isn’t far from my age and her kids are the ages of my kids.  So, technically they are second cousins (right?)  I told my aunt that normally we just go along with if it’s a grown person you address them as aunt or uncle and kids are cousins.

In the foster system, this is kind of how it goes inside the agency.  The only people who can watch the foster kids overnight are other foster parents and all the kids who have been in the system a while know each other.  It’s not a biological bond, but they are cousins in the patchwork family of foster homes.  The kids who don’t live here full-time normally either call me “Miss Cyndi” or “Aunt Cyndi.”

I don’t think we’ll ever transition from the “we spend a lot of time with you so you’re family” train of thought and into the “we’re biologically related so you’re my family” train.  Most people I know, they dread family gatherings because their blood ties connect them to people they neither like nor respect.   So, what is a family?

For me, my dad was very influential in defining our family.  It was Mom, Dad, and the three kids.  Dad called us “the wolf pack.”  We were lectured over the dinner table many times about how when times get hard, your family is your fail-safe.  He didn’t mean extended family though – he meant the five of us.  He taught us that we couldn’t depend on the rest of the folks to help us out.  My question was always why we called them family then if they had no stakes in keeping alive, healthy, and emotionally stable.  A family, to me, was always seen as a support structure and the rest of the “relations” were just ornamental. But then again, isn’t it cruel to disassociate yourself from your blood relations if there’s no bad blood at all?  Where there’s only mutual indifference?

So many thoughts keep rolling around in my brain about this.  Social contracts.  The need to define relationships.  Familial hierarchies.  Family trees and histories.  Knowing your roots.  Genetic memory.  Tribalism.  Structured society.

All I know is that my kids are probably going to fail their family tree assignment when they get into school because their mom would rather the term family be loosely defined with plenty of room to add more people.

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