A New Kind of Family

The holidays are a time when we think about family, and sometimes ask who is our REAL family. Nowadays “family” is often an odd assortment of people not always related by blood. Two years ago my sister’s two daughters gave birth within 3 months of each other. Their step-brother gave a party in celebration of the new grandchildren. He already had 3 children, and his sister, in a same-sex relationship, had two babies by artificial insemination. The grandfather was in Greece. My sister had divorced him a number of years ago, but was still considered family and some of her siblings showed up. It was a long drive for me, but I really wanted to meet my great-niece and -nephew. I’m very glad I went. I really enjoyed the variety of people. Also at the party were the divorced parents of one of the inlaws, each with a new spouse, and the bio-dad of Gina’s kids, his same sex partner, and his mother and sister. I wish there had been some sort of “family tree” to chart out the relationships. It would take some creativity – how would you fit in the sister of the bio-dad of the children of a lesbian couple?

My sister told a story of when she was in the hospital after Gina had given birth to her first child. The baby was in the ICU and my sister was there with three women and a man. The nurse came out and my sister asked how the baby was. “Wait a minute,” said the nurse, “who are the parents?” Gina and her partner raised their arms with identifying bracelets. “Who are the rest of you then?” asked the nurse. My sister said “I’m the ex-step-mother, this is the step-sister, and this is the bio-dad.” I loved it. How times have changed.

Two movies from a few years ago also ended with wonderfully eclectic family groups. One was “I am Sam” about a developmentally disabled man who was left with a baby and was doing his best to raise her. He had a group of friends to ask for advice. The state stepped in and put the daughter in a foster home, but she kept running away back to her father. Sam asked his daughter if she noticed that he was different from other dads. She said “Yes, the other dads don’t come to the playground with their kids.” At some point Sam sued for custody. Ironically the lawyer didn’t spend a lot of time with her little boy. When she tries to get Sam to tell a little white lie to the court, he refuses, can’t imagine doing such a thing. This man is considered “disabled”? At the end of the movie, all the parties have come to a workable solution. I think the little girl is playing a sport with her schoolmates and on the bleachers, cheering for her, were Sam & his buddies, both foster parents, and the Lawyer with her husband and son. The other movie was “About a Boy” and I don’t remember the plot line at all except that it ended, perhaps with a holiday meal, and all the people who had gotten involved were there.

Extended families as in the old days have broken up due to travel and ease of divorce, but it seems to me that mini-villages have begun to take their place. It should be obvious by now that the “nuclear family” is a very unhealthy way to raise kids.

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