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“Un”defining Family - Stepping into Reality

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

The notion of family has evolved beautifully throughout the years.

With or without intention, we are breaking away from the idea that the nuclear family is the symbol of tribal perfection.

The Nuclear Family, also known as the heteronormative narrative of the blissfully committed mom and dad, with their 2.5 kids, along with a dog, nestled in quiet contentment behind a non descriptive white picket fence.

This image rings a bell as we were all quietly pressured to fit this “standard” family portrait.

All smiles, no problems, and a perfectly manicured front lawn, as per the portraits on the packaging of Tupperware recently purchased.

What were the origins of this familial “ideal?” Who decided what it should look like? Especially given this… ever so specific model.

There’s nothing wrong with idealizing family. It’s not like having a picture perfect family is hurting anyone…

I disagree.

There was always something suspicious about those plastic smiles and perfectly coordinated outfits.There are many issues, when society nurtures the expectation that fits fluid, complicated and flawed individuals, many with eccentricities and quirks, not to mentioned unresolved traumas and prickly past lives, into a model of someone’s version of perfection.

Everyone immediately feels inadequate.

Authenticity falls short, so we all attempt to live up to the portrait, necessarily hiding behind facades, creating fictional narratives of familial excellence.

What’s wrong with setting a standard? Is it not better to have something that perpetuates a norm?

Better than accepting the individuals within your family for who they are, and what they bring?

No. I don’t think the former is the better alternative.

Individuality and uniqueness is lost as each person hides self in order to fit into the “standard” script, allotted. Rarely questioning why it’s so much more important to follow the script than to embrace who they each are.

Too many, never understanding why the idea of simply being, who you are as you are, created anxiety and triggered shame.

At least, for a large majority of us.

In truth, family has always been more complicated and nuanced than the plastic smiles on the commercial family portraits.

When it comes to real family portraits. No two are the same.

Some of us born into families, while others who had a say. Families with two dads, two moms, a mom and dad, or one of each…or more of each, none of each, an assigned guardian, who knows, take your pick.

All portraits, true portraits, that met the ideal in some ways and fell short in others.

Yeah, I guess I can see how setting a bar on the “perfect” family makes it hard for people to create room for their own lived definitions.

We are each shaped by this notion of family, as well as our degrees of separation from this "norm."

The unmerited benchmark by which we all have, at some point or another, evaluated our own lived experience.

No matter our circumstances, or how far we fell from the fictitious ideal, realize how our lived experiences of family moulded and shaped us, in ways we appreciate, as well as in ways we would rather choose to forget.

We are who we are, notably because the experience our families provided us.

Whoever they are, or were, wherever they are, or might be now.

I would not be who I am, were it not for the family that chance decided I would be born into.

No matter if those relationships are maintained or are dissolved, we all have the choice to honour the way life’s version of family translated for each of us.

If only for what those experiences made of us.

When creating your own families, give yourself permission to build a foundation that best reflects each of you.

Make that choice.

We have the capacity to draw meaning as it suits us.

Treat family as a blank canvas, each moment creating meaning, appreciating the colours and clashes that each individual brings to the fold.

Family is what you make of it, and also, what it once made of you.

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