Recently I was bragging about my beautiful sister, and how excited I am that she is about to be a mother. Someone overheard my conversation, and stopped us to specify that she wasn’t my actual sister. Today I stood next to that same beautiful woman during her ultrasound, and I’ll be damned if that baby on the screen isn’t my actual niece.
Let’s switch gears temporarily. When I met my husband, we each had a child of our own. That means Arielle is my stepdaughter, and Jacen is his stepson. It also means that Anna is a half sibling to both kids. (Lost yet? Modern family trees get a little crazy.) Jacen and Arielle share no blood, nor do Arielle and I, nor Mike and Jacen. Does this mean we are not actually family? Of course it doesn’t, and it would never be socially acceptable for someone to publicly announce otherwise.
So why is there a need to specify that she is not my actual sister? We share no blood, but we are certainly family. There are people who share my blood who never met my children. My sister has attended every birthday party, soccer game, talent show, Disney World trip and fundraiser right by my side. She remembers their birth weights, appointment dates and favorite characters better than I do. Jacen has never spent one second of life with his birth father, and yet she can’t imagine one second of her life without Jacen.
She is my sister, not by blood but by heart. Most of the people my children call family are not biologically related. At last count, Arielle had six women she called her grandmother. Explain that to a geneticist.
I’m not here to argue, I’m not here to shame. I’m not here to vent or defend our relationship. I’m here to brag.
That one little interruption in my conversation didn’t knock me off the rails- it didn’t even slow me down. My love and pride for my family outshines any outsider’s speculation. It always will.
I consider myself extremely lucky, for I’ve been able to hand select the members of my family. I’m not obligated to keep them in my life due to genes, I choose to keep them in my life because they deserve to be there. We’ve already mentioned my amazing sister, so let’s keep going with her. She’s been in my life since we were 10 years old. I’ve bounced every major life decision off her because I truly value her insight. We know everything about each other. We’ve supported each other through all of life’s changes, and have included each other in every single milestone. She’s seen my best and my worst. She’s told me the truth when she’s disagreed with me, but loved me even if I didn’t listen. Even when I’ve pushed her away she’s fought her way back. We won’t ever give up on each other, and we’ll never lose each other.
I’ve known her husband for almost as long. Years before he married my sister (years before they were even dating) my children called him their uncle. My son was just under a year old when I needed a sitter during a Taylor Swift concert. Nik was 19, and I don’t think he’d ever been alone with a baby before. That didn’t stop him from volunteering to stay home with my kid. Not only did he tackle diapers and bottles, he even drove us to the concert AND braved horrifying stadium traffic to pick us up after. He stepped out of his comfort zone so I could have a good time. He didn’t ask to be an uncle at 19. He could have easily spent the night with his friends, free of responsibility. He didn’t. He chose us, he gave that night up for me. That’s the kind of person I recruit to be a member of my family.
In two days Arielle will have her 10th birthday party. There will be three people in attendance who share her DNA. Over 70% of her guests are family by heart. I am her family by heart. We do not feel the need to specify step, half, adopted or “actual” – we are just family. We are a happy, loving, very fortunate family. We care for each other without obligation. We make conscious decisions to stay together. We can’t take each other for granted because there’s no biological net to fall back on. To me, that’s the truest love there is. Love that’s created and not assigned. Love that bonds very different hearts under one family. Love that blends.
With happy hearts,
Kate and the kids.
… and every member of our FAMILY.