Eliza Grace was born on March 15, 2006, at 26 weeks, 4 days, weighing 1 pound 4 ounces and measuring just 11.5 inches long. She is the light of my soul and this is the story of our life in the big city.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

We Are Family... Or Are We?

Perhaps it was the milestone birthdays that Eliza and I had this year (5 and 50), but I have been thinking a lot about what really makes up a family. Is it the people we share a blood relationship with only or is it comprised of friends who have become like family to us? Can a distant cousin be more of a sibling to me than my own sibling and does that cousin become a more important family member? Can a cousin who lives overseas be more involved in Eliza's life than family members who lives nearby?

When I was growing up our family (first cousins, second cousins and some third and fourth cousins) were relatively close by and we spent weekends, birthdays and holidays together. Our parents and older cousins had jobs, sometimes two jobs, but no one ever seemed too busy to find time for family. We quarreled and drew lines in the sand (a few fist fights even broke out) but at the end of the day sat down, we laughed at ourselves and shared a good meal. Are we really that much busier today and that much more focused on ourselves that we can't think beyond our own needs? Have we forgotten that family does matter?

When you ask Eliza who her family is she will tell you: "Mama, Nana, Peter, Matthew, Adriana, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Cindy, Aunt Mal, Aunt Carolyn, Nana Wilda, Cerissa, Uncle Ken, "the cousins" (Nicole's and Tracey's children), John, Patti, Bosley and Pumpkin (don't ask)." If you know my immediate family, you will realize there are some notable absences from the list. I find this very sad because Eliza does not, and likely will not, ever get to know these people, people I grew up with and people who I watched grow up. How busy can people be that they can't make time to spend with a 5 year old? Very, very, very busy I am told. At what point am I permitted to stop trying to include actual family who can't be bothered to get to know Eliza?

Some people may argue that it isn't Eliza that they don't like, but rather it is me they would prefer not to share an afternoon with. Fair enough, but there is nothing stopping someone from taking Eliza out for an afternoon (trust me on this one) or even acknowledging her birthday with a simple card. But what is a parent to do? Do I keep telling Eliza who her family is and have her disappointed when they don't show up for events or show up in body but not spirit? Or do I let her craft her own "family" from the people who love her and want to be an active part of her life, but who are not even related to her?

Family does matter. Right?


Sarah said...

I think that people, or society, just get more and more selfish. I really do have cards and gifts for you guys - I'm still looking for a dang FFA shirt lol.

But, I understand what you mean. I have a sister that I rarely, if ever, speak to. When she comes over Emery thinks he's getting a therapy session.

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

That therapist comment made me laugh so hard my computer screen is covered in coffee!

Mom2Da'Gorgeouses said...

Family is where you hang your heart. I say whether they are related or not, those who make the time for us become our family, those who don't well they've just excluded themselves from ours. Hugs & Blessings!

BusyLizzyMom said...

We have the problem here. I wonder if it is me, am I too intezen with Elizabeth's needs and schedules. But in the same sense it does not take much to call her or take out for lunch or to the mall and see what a great kid she is.
It really is their loss and like you we continue to surround her and us with people (family or not) who support us and who enjoy spending time with us.
It does not stop the hurt though.

Laraf123 said...

I completely agree that family are the people who make time for you. I have a total of 3 cousins and no siblings. Two of my cousins never acknowledged the birth of my children, yet I have a friend whom I've only know 3.5 years and she is Liam's godmother.

Eliza is loved by so many people who want to share time with her. I don't think it matters that some are not in her family tree. What matters is that they've gathered in your family forest.

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

I like the notion of the "family forest."

Jen said...

We go through the same thing with my husband's family. And when we do see them and she acts confused as to who they are, they actually talk about ME behind my back! And yet, I am the one sending homemade gifts from Lili, pictures, etc. My sister and her family don't live near but Lili ADORES them. She talks to them on the phone and they make an effort to see her. I agree with BusyLizzy--it's their loss. Although, it frustrates me knowing that the day will come when Lili will ask about these people and why she doesn't know them. And, I will be honest with her. And, my child will know that when you give love, you receive love.

Bridie said...

Anne, I share your frustration. I have a brother who lives half an hour away who claims he just "doesn't form deep emotional relationships with people". I grew up with large family affairs and knowing my cousins even if we only all got together occasionally. It breaks my heart that my boys will not be especially close to their only blood Uncle. But they are surrounded by others that they call "Uncle", and I've come to terms with the fact that this has to be good enough. As much as I've tried I can't force my values on others. I wish I could say "oh well, his loss" but when it involves my kids, it makes me sad that it's a bit of their loss as well.