The Changing Definition of Family

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The Changing Definition of Family

Jordan McCusker

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The dictionary definition of family is “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household”(Family.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/family.). This is the typical definition of a nuclear family and is what people normally think of when they hear the word family. Family isn’t just the people you are related to, and I’ve realized that over the years, that meaning has changed for me and other people. The clarification of my definition of family came through my interactions with people and exposure to the media. I began to see more and more people considered those they weren’t related to be family.

When I was a little kid, family was whoever I was told was my family. My mother, my father, my grandparents, and everyone else were my family because that’s what everyone said. I didn’t question it because I was little and didn’t know anything else. More recently I’ve realized that family is a more open and loose term that can apply to more people than just blood relatives. When I asked my friends how they defined family, their answers differed. It was either family was just people you were related to by blood or the people they care about and want in their lives. I agree with the latter. I believe that family is anyone you want in your life and has really been there.

Family became apparent to me when I entered high school. It was something our drama teacher would say. He’d call us a family. When I first heard that, it made me think, were we really a family? I suppose I hadn’t really met anyone yet nor interacted with anyone much, so I was reluctant at first to believe that we were. Honestly, I didn’t really figure out we were a family until my sophomore year. After I had gotten to know people better and we were all sitting together, talking and reminiscing, it just kind of clicked. I know it was more of a loose definition and the whole drama club wouldn’t be eating Thanksgiving together, but it was still something.

I know it can be a heavy thing calling someone you’re not related to by blood family. It’s one of the reasons I tried avoiding that word because I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on the people I loved. Calling someone family means that you’re basically together forever and not everyone wants that, so it can make a person uncomfortable.  So I don’t say it out loud a lot, but I still consider my friends a part of my family. I mean when a person has been for you time and time again, and you’ve been through so much, wouldn’t you start to consider them family too? I can think of at least eight friends that I would consider my family, and I know that even if we don’t always see each other, we’ll always be there for each other.

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The Changing Definition of Family