What is Family?

I’ve been thinking about this recently and I wanted to lay it all out there and define what Family means to me. You see recently for some reason my kids have been talking about relationships within our family and figuring out who is what and applying labels to them all. I overheard a discussion with my two daughters where they were talking about who their Dad is and why the older 2 kids call me “Jason” instead of “Dad” like our younger one does. You see, our older 2 kids are from my wife’s previous marriage, the older of the 2 is 16 her brother is 15. I’ve been a part of their lives for a long time, 11 years to be exact. Back when we got married almost 7 years ago the kids asked me if they wanted them to call me “Dad” and I felt kinda weird about that, I respect the fact that they have another Father and that whatever they felt right in calling me would be fine by me. I think they felt kinda weird about it too, going from calling someone you’ve known for a while one thing to calling them something else would be weird and kind of hard. It’s like when a family member has as nickname that is a shorter version of their real name and when they go into the business world they want to be called their full birthname, you know you’ll end up calling them the nick name for the rest of their lives just out of habit. You see, my Dad died when I was 5 and I’ve had 2 Step Dads in my life in which I called them both by their first names and referred to them as “my Dad” when asked unofficially by someone. Unless it was official business (a cop asking me, a judge… something legal) then they were “my Dad”. I’m a simple person and it cuts down on the extra explaining that isn’t pertinent to the conversation.

So, getting back to the discussion that our oldest was having with our 5 year old, she was explaining that they have different Dads and the same Mom and that she calls me “Jason” because of that. I think she may have mentioned that they are “half sisters” at some point in the convo but I’m not 100% sure. Later the younger one asked me “Dad, why does my sister call you Jason?” and at this point I knew I had to draw her a map. Using simple circles I whipped up a diagram and showed her how it all works. She asked me about Moms, Grandmas as Dads along with Step Dads and why we call these people these things. I explained to her that no matter what the label is they are who they are to you and that’s all that matters. It got me thinking, I almost NEVER call the older 2 kids my Step Kids. To be honest I still think some people think that I had a kid with Jen when I was 17 unless they took the time out to asked me about it.

All of this talk about labeling in our family structure got me thinking even more, does it really matter? You see, when I was in Middle School going into High School my Mom was married to a Latin American man who had 2 kids that came to live with us. They were 1 and 2 years older than I was (my Brother is 5 years younger than I) and they were going into High School. Since I’m white and they were Hispanic it was pretty safe to assume when I said “This is my brother” they knew something was amiss and I’d imagine they assumed that we were not blood related. With my Mom being married to their Dad came the fact that we now had quite a few cousins and other family members from his side of the family. Since I come from a small family myself we just adopted them as our own as far as we were concerned. I was always taught that family is what you make of it, labels don’t matter and they are to you whatever you think they are to you and that’s all that matters. With all that said, does it matter? To me it doesn’t and I try to show that to my own kids by treating them as if they are my own, because they are… and that’s all that matters.

Tell me about your family dynamic I want to know about labels, how you dealt with them and does it really matter? What makes you, you? Is a relationship defined by a label? Do you treat someone different because of this? Do they treat you different? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious.

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