What does family mean to you? Our resident blogger, Cara Jasmine Bradley, shares what family means to her...
Family is a feeling. ‘Family’ is not a rigid category - a strict definition in the dictionary - family is those who have come into our lives and seasoned it with love, friendship and memories.
Family is not simply limited to those immediately related to us by blood. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and fit a wide variation of descriptions and dimensions. Just because somebody isn’t technically related to us, it doesn’t make them any less of a family member.
The ‘traditional family unit’ struggles to settle into a one-size fits all category in this day and age.
Families can be made up of two mums, or two dads, or Grandma and Grandads. Some consider their friends to be as close as family, and are fiercely defensive of this title. A large number of us even class our beloved pets as part of the family (anyone else sign their pet’s name at the end of Christmas cards alongside their own? No? Just me then!)
Step brothers, half sisters, foster mums, nanna-in-laws; they’re all very much integral parts of our family units.
(… And it can’t just be me who has an ‘aunty who’s not their aunty.’ This is usually your Mum’s best friend who you’ve lovingly referred to as ‘Aunty Shauna’ for practically all of your life!)
We can have friendship families: the mates we choose to enhance our lives over the years.
We can have work families: those people in our day-to-day environments who we have met by chance, but who end up knowing us and every detail of our lives better than perhaps some of our oldest friends!
We can have weekend families: like-minded pals we meet up with to share our treasured hobbies, whether its the lads who sit next to us at football every week, or the girls from dance.
Family is a sharing of interests. Family is an unbreakable bond. Family is protection. Family is reassurance. Family is comfort. Family is a ready ear to share a problem, no matter how big or small.
It’s the people who ask how our day was, and it’s the people who are genuinely interested in the response. It’s the people who remember our birthday. It’s the people who make our Christmases as cosy as our childhood storybooks. It’s the people who recognise our silence before we even recognise it ourselves. It’s the people who discretely buy us a bag of our favourite sweets in the big shop each week, just because. It’s the people who actually remember what our favourite sweets are, our favourite foods, our likes and dislikes. It’s the people who stand by our side no matter what, and refuse to budge no matter how rough the storm may get along the way. It’s the people who star in our most precious memories, from both childhood and present day – the memories we call on to pull us through when our current disposition looks somewhat bleak.
Nobody should ever feel inadequate when it comes to family, because as long you have people around who support you no matter what, you are already blessed with life’s greatest gift.
Some might live with both their Mum and our Dad, some may be in a household with their spouse and children, some reside with their grandparents, some live alone, and some might live with siblings. There are those who houseshare with their mates, those who are in university halls, and those who live in residential care homes, or with foster families.
Some have families in the next room, or just down the road, and some have families who live in totally different countries. Some see their family every day, and some see their family once a year.
There are hundreds of possibilities when it comes to family.
One thing is for sure: there is no wrong way when it comes to the bond of a loving family. Family is a beautiful consistency of life. No matter how infrequent the contact, how near, how far, how distant; with ties to family – whatever it means to us - we should never feel totally alone.
There are so many ways in which we can look to grow our families over time, whether that be via the addition of gained friends, a baby, a new dog, or opening our doors to the possibility of being foster parents.
The expression goes ‘we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our family,’ however this a sentiment I consider to be untrue. Family is exactly who we choose it to be. Cara Jasmine Bradley