My mom was raised down south in Charleston, S.C. in a three family house; the doors between residences were never locked as all the occupants were related. Cousins were raised like siblings and the adults all shared in caring for the children. Mommy carried those attitudes throughout her adult life when she herself eventually became a parent. My dad was the product of a broken home, the separation was far from amicable, and it was a loving step-mother who gave him his first real taste of family; it wasn’t surprising that Daddy followed Mommy’s lead in raising their two daughters. Although proud and loving of two daughters, my father was the kind of man that wanted sons. Daddy told my sister and me that eventually we would marry and bring him his sons, and indeed he referred to both my brother (in-law) and my husband as his sons.
My sister and I have shared many conversations about family relationships, for years we both dropped the term “in-law” when introducing the other’s husband as our brothers — amusingly this once caused quite a bit of confusion when I referred to my “brother” in a group setting just before my sister entered the room! We each have two birth children and each is married so we always talk of ALL the kids. I consider my son-in-law and daughter-in-law’s families as MY relatives, my cousins’ cousins are my cousins, and there are a few close friends who seem to have simply been absorbed into the family. My parents taught me that love and caring transcends legal definitions of family relationships.
I imagine that sometimes others feel that we (my sister and I) too readily absorb others into our family life, but we got that from our parents. Growing up I used to tell people that if the paperboy was collecting at dinner time, there would be a plate set for him – and there were many times, as a teenager, I would come home from visiting other friends to find that another friend or two had stopped over to see me and wound up having dinner with my folks and would be sitting and watching TV with them when I got home. There was always a feeling of inclusiveness and a belief that the front door to our apartment would be better served by a revolving door. Family pictures adorn my living room walls just as my mom displayed a “Rogues Gallery” in the long entry foyer of our Bronx apartment. I like to be surrounded by family no matter the distance between us, or even if these dear members are no longer with me.
I once heard someone say they felt they had too many relatives – WHAT?! How is it that some people actually crave less family and others need more?
What kind of family did you grow up with? Was it large and filled with holiday dinners and parties? And how did your upbringing affect your present family life? According to Statista.com “The average American family in 2014 consisted of 3.13 persons.”, how does yours compare?
I’d love to hear your views…