The older I get, the more I'm able to accept the reality that there are many, many different ways to define "family". I was raised on the notion that a family is a mom, a dad, a pet (most likely a female black lab), and a couple of children, and maybe some grandparents who visit but never actually move in with you, but bring you suitcases stuffed with exciting gifts like Cabbage Patch Kids, Virgin Mary night lights, and footie pajamas. This is what my family pretty much looked like, as did the families of most of my friends. This was the reality of life in the suburbs. Nothing wrong with it--it worked for me, my childhood was fine; my parents are still married, ours is a family in it's most socially acceptible form.
What happened next was that I set out to start my own family. I did this much along the lines of what I was taught was appropriate; I found a guy I thought to be an acceptable mate, one with good bone structure and a strong back who I figured could help me breed a race of superhumans to help take over the planet. Just kidding. But Shawn does have good bone structure.
We married. We had a baby.
But things didn't actually go according to plan.
Circumstances forced our family dynamic to shift substantially--I'd even go so far as to say it could easily have ripped us apart had we not been the people we are. But so far, we've been able to scrabble ourselves back together in a (somewhat) healthy way, and love one another because we're the only family our daughter's ever known. And actually, I'm pretty proud of the family we've built and continue to maintain. I believe that a family can really be anything you create it to be. If there are people present who care for, support and nurture each other, and actually want to spend time together, then that's absolutely a family to me. I count a number of my friends as my family. I love them wholly and there isn't much I wouldn't do for them. My parents are my family. Shawn's parents are my family. I feel it when we are in a room together, you just know it. And for that I'm grateful.