I’ve been thinking about family a lot this week.
It started with the last few days of the Equal Marriage consultation, and nagging people to put in their expressions of support. And this eloquent video of an American teen talking about growing up with his two moms.
Then, I loved Ellen Arnison’s blog post on Thursday called “What shape is your family?” She starts with a great picture of a lovely multi-generational group which can’t fail to make you smile. Then she talks about the form her family takes. “This group that is my family contains divorcees, cohabitees, married couples, couples together but not cohabiting, singles, widows, first marriages, second marriages, civil partnerships, donor insemination kids, out of wedlock kids, siblings, half siblings, step relations and probably a few others I can’t think of.”
I thought she really captured the lovely complexity that a family often is. I was going to say “a modern family” but then I thought of my dad’s family, where the First World War was the reason why he had so many half-relations: on each side a wife had married again after her husband died in the war and had more kids. My gran on the other side lived with her grandad and maiden aunt as well as her parents and sisters. On looking into my genealogy, my family certainly didn’t lack complexity in any generation.
Today we went to a party held by friends who have a fabulous new daughter by adoption and there was a really strong sense of family there (and a great sense of happiness too).
Yesterday was my dad’s family Christmas meal. For the last couple of years this has been on the weekend before Christmas, but Mr Woodsmoke and I are going to a wedding next weekend, so it was early. This Christmas meal is for what passes as my “nuclear” family of 12 people: my dad, his wife, my 2 sisters, 3 step-brothers, one brother-in-law, one step-sister-in-law, a nephew and Mr Woodsmoke and I. Yes, that’s a fairly big table. This year we were down by one ill and two in Canada but it’s still a decent crowd.
Initially, we took a little while to gel as a family. When I say that I have two sisters and three step-brothers, I always get the response “it must have been very busy growing up!” and then I feel like a bit of a fraud, given that I had left home by the time that the families merged. The family set-up I grew up in was entirely vanilla.
But over the years, both sides of the step-relationship have found that we have quite a bit in common, as have the married-intos. We are generally introverts (to varying degrees), and we are all giant geeks (well, my computer-geek dad married two other computer-geeks in a row so it’s kind of inevitable). So one nice thing about having a meal “just us” is that if we want to have an extremely interesting discussion about fracking over our turkey, well, we’ll just go for it, with general enjoyment and no ‘normal people’ scoffing at us! I find it a really fun environment.
As I commented on Ellen’s blog, it makes me really happy to think that my nephew will grow up with loads of aunties and uncles without thinking twice about which ones are step- or half- or adopted or not actually related at all. Who cares, when they all love him?