When I was asked to write about family, I couldn’t figure out how mine differed from the perceived norm—a husband, a wife, two children (a girl and a boy, the perfect set of bookends) a dog, a cat and a little house without the picket fence. There it was, staring me straight in the face, my family was…normal. Nuclear, even.
However, as most families would tell you, we are far from normal. Our abnormality does not extend to feats that would make us features in a circus act, but something more subtle. I am an ex-pat, known locally in my small Australian town as “the Canadian.” I have been living in the Southern Hemisphere for the last twelve years, about as far away from my close-knit extended family as I could have ever perceived possible—13,367 kilometers away, in fact. Unlike many, I am not separated from my extended family by war, or religion, or circumstance, but by choice. So by choice I have made those who surround me my family.
Family, in my newly discovered experience, is a fluid state, one that is bound by love, trust and friendship instead of blood ties. It’s a support network exemplified by my neighbour who cares for our children like her own. It’s in my employers who regard me as one of their daughters. It’s the acceptance of the in-laws, who don’t have to love me as a family member, but do anyway. And it is the respect of a long-time friend who is there in times of need. Suddenly the boundary of my family is pushed past the nuclear, becoming its own energy force, like gossamer ribbons extending from person to person. It goes beyond the traditional structure and grows into something more organic, thriving on the needs of its core, shifting and changing as those needs evolve.
An oft-quoted African proverb professes that to raise a child, it takes a village. And a “nucleus” refers to a seed inside a fruit. My little Australian family is composed of a community, creating the nucleus which encourages it to blossom and mature. And that is my normal indeed.
Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the project got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.