July 06, 2010

What is A Family

I think that one day I will tell my children about the fire that burns in my belly and that they'll nod their heads in understanding. They'll smile and tell me that they have that same fire that drives us and they'll understand what it means to be part of this family in a different way than they had.

Family isn't always an easy concept for kids to follow. That is because the traditional model that we think of, the nuclear family isn't really the norm but what many people want the norm to be. I suppose that in an ideal world it would be a father, mother and their biological children.There wouldn't be adoption because the biological parents of every child would be able to raise them.

But that is not the world that we live in and it is part of why my kids and I had a long discussion about what it means to be family and the different family models that exist. I don't know how the discussion started. Can't tell you whether they brought it up or if it was because of something else.

What I know is that at one point my son told me that one of his cousins wasn't real family because she is adopted. I jumped on him a bit for it, probably was a little bit more aggressive in my response than I should have been. But I don't think that being adopted means you are any less a child than a biological child is.

The cousin they referred to was adopted as an infant. So I looked at the children and asked them if their cousin had any memories of biological parents. They looked at me with incredulity and said that she couldn't because she was a baby then. So I said who does she think of her as her mommy and daddy.

As they told me that it had to be the same people as her older sister I asked them to explain why that meant that she couldn't be real family. They couldn't and my son told me that he had decided that I was right. I smiled at him and told him sometimes family is more complicated than it appears.

I try to let the kids set the pace for conversations such as this. There is no reason to provide them with any more information than they need. As they grow older we can revisit and fill in blank spots.

My daughter asked me if a person could have two mommies or daddies and I said yes. She told me that she didn't understand and that it seemed silly. I told her that the most important thing is whether two people love each other and that love is what makes a family.

It is not a perfect answer but overall I am pretty happy with it. It just makes sense to me and I think that it satisfied many of their questions but I was still left with a bunch of questions that didn't really get answered as well.

There was the "is there medicine that mommies can take to stop a baby from coming" and "why do people not want children" that remain on the table. And let's not forget the "why do people do something that can lead to a baby if they don't want one" as well.

I am not afraid to answer or unwilling to answer those questions but given the time frame and constraints of young minds I wanted to try and spread these conversations out a bit.

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