Defining Family

I looked up the legal definition of a family and this is what I got...and this...and then this. It only goes to show that today's family is difficult to define because of its diversity primarily due to the many changes it has undergone through the years. In school I was taught that a family consists of a father, a mother and a child.  That teaching continues to this day even when families and family dynamics are no longer as simple as that.  When my son was in Grade 2 in a local Catholic school, his social studies teacher asked them to say something about their families and some of the children gave unusual answers.  She obviously was unprepared (or simply clueless) for what they gave because, not getting the "right" answers, she further explained that a father is the one that made your mother pregnant and a mother is the one who carried you in her tummy! Of course, when he was picked up from school, the first thing my son asked was, "where is my father" and proceeded to relate to his grandmother what the teacher said.  My son by the way was adopted when he was 3 months old and he knew this, but the teacher confused him because the man he considered as Papa was my younger brother. My mom was so livid that she called me at work and demanded that I confront the teacher for her stupidity! I had to pacify her and of course, went to see the teacher. She was apologetic and admitted that she did not know how to respond to the children's sharing and subsequent questioning. To make a long story shorter, I had to sit down with my son about his birth father (he knew who his birth mother was) and being a little boy, he lost interest and even forgot about the whole thing after a few days. My son was only one of the 10 or more kids out of the 30 students whose family dynamics no longer follow the norm.  In fact, he told me that one of his classmates even shared that he had a feeling that his older sister is his real mother...and the poor teacher had no answer to that.

The Family Law definition that defines family as a group of individuals who share ties of blood, marriage, or adoption; a group residing together and consisting of parents, children, and other relatives by blood or marriage; a group of individuals residing together who have consented to an arrangement similar to ties of blood or marriage is an acceptable definition although I think the words "residing together" really refer to the family as a unit and not to the family as a larger group. Also, I believe parents whether biological or not, should be a dad and a mom...I do not want to belabor this issue but I strongly feel from my experience as a single adoptive mother that growing children do not need this added confusion about sexual orientation and the like. My brother became surrogate dad to my son and it made all the difference.  And then there are the blended families and extended families. So for my purposes, I refer to family as the following:
  1. a group of people related by ancestry or marriage; relatives
  2. all those claiming descent from a common ancestor; tribe or clan; lineage
  3. basic social unit consisting of persons united by ties of marriage (affinity), “blood” (consanguinity), or adoption
In my previous post, I wrote that I was discovering a lot of secrets aka little known family facts while making my family tree.  At the same time, it has made me look at families and relations with a little more understanding and empathy than before. It also started me doing some research on family structure and dynamics and how these affects family relationships through the years.


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