The Melting Pot of Family
In this piece I discuss the ideas of chosen families and blood related family in relation to the American melting pot.
We all know the saying blood is thicker than water. The saying means that people who we share blood with like relative are more important or more connected than those who don’t. In the US we tend to treat the nuclear family and blood relatives as the default family structure. We assume that people talk to their relatives, and sometimes even ostracized them if they don’t. We say things like there your family you should love them. Family doesn’t have to be relatives. My family is a mix of blood and nonblood family. They mean the world to me.
We treat nontraditional families as if they are less than “normal” families. This is not only untrue but hurtful to those in nontraditional family structures. There are many types of families that don’t fit the traditional family structure, like LGBTQ families, families that have adopted, single-parent households, blended families, and chosen families. A chosen family is simply a family you choose. It can be made up of both of blood and nonblood-related people, or just one of them. It’s what you make it. All a family needs to be is people who love and care about you. A family can be similar to the American idea of the melting pot. We can come from different places, have different cultures, and have different goals, but we can still love and care about each other. The American ideal of family should be held to similar standards as the idea of the melting pot because the families we choose are just as valid as the families will are given by blood.
I have grown up in a single parent household with my mom. I still see my dad and the relatives on his side but, most the time it is just me and my mom. A lot of my relatives on my mom’s side have passed away. My family consists of my parents, most of my grandparents (only some of whom are biologically related), my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and my very close friend. In my friend group, there are nine of us including myself and we are all very close. We go to five different schools but still manage to see each other about once a month. I know that they all love me and that I can go to them if I need anything. Last year on my birthday even though I had seen them two days prior every single one of them texted me happy birthday. My grandparents who I had not seen for a couple of months, didn’t text me. They forgot. Why would the people who forgot my birthday be considered my family but not the people who remembered? My friends also know me much better than my family does. They know that I have a hard time in loud rooms and that I don’t like to be left alone in stores, but my relatives don’t even know that I no longer talk to the girl they still call my best friend. We tend to put the value of relationships on a hierarchy. We put romantic on top, then relationships with relatives, then friendships. This leaves us feeling that our relationships with our friends are less important, but they are not.
The man I call Bud is my grandpa. He is technically my mom’s stepdad. He is the man that raised her and took care of her. She still saw her biological dad until she was 18, then he stopped trying to see her. Bud is still in our lives even after my grandmother died because he cares. When my parents split up my mom and I went and lived with Bud for a little less than a year. Bud help my mom and I get where we are now in our house. Bud is her dad. He is not any less her dad or my grandpa because of the lack of blood relations. Bud also recently got remarried to a wonderful woman who is now part of our family. It is very confusing trying to explain who she is to me. She is my mom’s step dad's new wife or my step-step-grandma. It doesn’t matter. She is family.
Many people don’t talk to their relative for a certain reason. They could have been abused or mistreated by relatives, they could have been in a fight, or their relatives could just be bad people and they want nothing to do with them. We tend to think that if someone doesn’t talk to their relative then there is inherently something wrong with them, but we forget to consider that something might be wrong with the relatives. One of the only times I’ve seen my best friend cry was at my 15th birthday. Her mother has yelled at her and wouldn’t let her leave. She showed up and my mom and I pulled her aside and she started crying. Her mother is not a nice person and is constantly putting her down. My mom, on the other hand, is the person in her life who tells her she can do whatever she wants to do. My mom checks in with her whenever she sees her We have a running joke that when she comes home from college she is going to come to my house and not hers. This is only kind of a joke. She doesn’t want to see her mom but wants to see my mom. This is one of the ideas of a chosen family, she can choose to see my mom but not her own. Also, people don’t have to have a reason not to talk the there relatives, some people just don’t go well together and blood can’t change that. If someone doesn’t talk to their relatives that has nothing to do with you so don't judge them for that.
Most traditional families aren’t completely blood-related either because of marriage. I am not biologically related to my aunt because she is married to my uncle yet most people would see her as my family. Marriage seems to be the one exception to the traditional idea of blood is thicker than water. Why does something I have no control over have the power to change my family? I didn’t get to choose if my uncle married my aunt and she is in a traditional setting is now my family because of the legal action of marriage. Don’t get me wrong I love my aunt and I do consider her family, but I shouldn’t have to if I don’t want to. People see marriage as a bridge into a new family. The day you get married is the day you are officially part of your spouse’s family. People even say at weddings that you are now part of the family as if you weren’t before. Why does this legal status get to change my family?
The idea of the nuclear family is a rather new one if you look at history. In the past, multigenerational households were much more common than they are now. In the past, you will also see people coming together to raise the children. We all know the saying it takes a village to raise a child. This is still the way many groups look at taking care of children, but it is a practice that was much lost to time in the US. This phrase is based on the idea that family doesn’t have to be relatives, it is just the people who help shape you into the person you will become.
Chosen families are like the American melting pot because we all come different places but chose to be part of these groups. In America, we like to think of our country and a diverse group of people but our family values don’t match that. Families can be as diverse as the country because families don’t rely on blood.
Families should be the people you love and who love you. No one should be required to be considered family. Blood and marriage don’t make a family, your feelings and love for one and other do. A family is what you make it. Who is your family?