Urban Dictionary has some very interesting – and some pretty hilarious – definitions for family.
- It’s not necessarily about who’s blood you have, or who you’re forced to spend the holidays with. It’s about people you love and they love you back.
- A bunch of people who hate each other and eat dinner together.
- People you love who love you back, not necessarily blood or biological, but you trust them and they trust you, and they take care of you and you take care of them.
- People who get into your business.
- Family is not defined by shared DNA. It is defined by the people who love you as much as you love them; they are the ones you call and the ones who will never let you fall. They are the ones you trust with everything and anything, and you know that you will never let each other down.
I lucked out big time in the family department. I grew up in a household with parents who loved me, who worked hard to provide for us, and who spent their time with us and their energy on us. I came home from school to parents who asked me about my day and then we all sat down to dinner together every night. My Dad is a prankster who can make Grace seem longer than any Catholic mass, my sister is a donut thief, and my Mom has a super-secret personal Scrabble dictionary that allows her to spell balloon with one L and win by 142 points.
My family isn’t perfect, but we love each other unconditionally. We are a unit, we can trust each other, we can count on each other, and perhaps most importantly we are ourselves with each other.
It never once occurred to me that my girls would not have that family unit – that home with Mom and Dad and those secret inside jokes and shared experiences only the 4 of you know. That complete trust in their parents and that freedom to be themselves at any and all times. And more than everything else that I’ve fretted about and worried about and been sad about in the last 8 months combined, I have mourned that.
I have mourned that my girls will not have the family unit they should have.
The family unit they deserve.
Frankly, it really pisses me off because it was stolen from them. It was stolen from them by people who made very selfish choices and thought nothing of the impact their decisions and behavior would have on two innocent children. But as the anger has subsided a bit, I’ve thought a lot about the fact that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce and so at least half of our nation’s children grow up without that intact family unit. Why is that? How does that happen? Is it that people in our time have turned away from faith, that we’ve normalized divorce on TV, we play too many video games or spend too much time on our phones, we’ve sexualized everything on all kinds of media, or we’re smoking pot legally in all kinds of states? The list of possibilities seems endless, and yet it seems like none of those things are it.
And so I began to wonder…if we don’t come from a “whole” family unit or our family unit is broken in some way, do we really value family as much as others? Because how can you really know what you missed out on when you never had it?
And are you then more likely to grow up and enter into relationships which are more likely to end in divorce? Statistically speaking, you can find numbers to support the Yes and the No sides of that question. But as I’ve rolled all of these things around in my head over and over and over again, I’ve started to think that I am not sure that people who are raised in a “whole” family unit and people who are raised in a “broken” family can even really understand the life of the other. And if that’s true, can someone from a “broken” home really even grasp what people and children will miss out on if they don’t grow up in a “whole” family unit? Maybe not?
And if that maybe not is true, then I can’t be as angry about something that people don’t even have the ability to understand. It’s like being mad at someone for not understanding Spanish when they have never read or heard Spanish before. And suddenly my sail has less angry wind in it.
That’s how this process works – the divorce/grief healing process. It’s a repeated assessment of an angry wind in your sail, until one day you’ve been through all the reasons for angry winds and all the angry is gone.
Brave girls don’t run from those reasons. Brave girls think about those reasons one by one. I can do that. Brave girls get through all of the reasons for the anger and then the anger is gone. I’m not there yet.
My aunt and my cousins visited us this weekend. I absolutely love time with family. I love sitting and talking for hours. I love overeating and telling old stories and taking photos and laughing at bathroom jokes. I love getting to know the children of my first cousins – the girls I was so excited to see each Christmas that I would stand at my Mama’s front window and count cars until theirs pulled into the driveway. They have children now – boys who are almost grown – who love history and games, who have jobs, who are kind and thoughtful, and who giggled with my daughters in a pew at the back of my church. I love that we worshipped together.
We are a unit. We have shared DNA running through all of us. I may no longer be able to give my girls a “traditional” home with a Mom and Dad and board games after dinner. But I can give them family who love them and who they love back. Family with whom they have shared experiences. Family with whom they can look at angry waves and stand surrounded by angry waters as they feel angry winds hit their faces. Family that makes them feel so loved, they can face that anger and then turn away from the chaos and smile.
“Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm.”
The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm.”