Is family defined by blood or loyalty?

In today’s culture, I notice that there is a lot of weight put around the idea of a person’s “family”. There are various cheesy plaques at the nearest craft store dealing with the traditional idea that family is defined by who you are related to. However, families come in many different forms and dynamics, which makes it hard to find a cheesy plaque that captures the makeup of every family.

Fundamentally, family is the one thing you are stuck with for the entirety of your life; however, having only one family throughout one’s lifetime is not uncommon. Sometimes, family is more about who stands by you, rather than who you share a gene pool with.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), family is defined as, “…a group of individuals with a continuing legal, genetic and/or emotional relationship.” With that idea, I would like to take a moment to share some of my own insights.

As a part of survival, human beings have a natural instinct to form groups to become a stronger unit-otherwise known as a family. In far too many cases, an individual is rejected from the group they were born into, and are forced to find a new group.

This is where the flexible definition of what is family begins—more metaphorically than literally.

In my own experience, there are definitely distant relatives that exist amongst my family. They are the aunts and uncles I see at Christmas, who only comment on how much I have grown since the last time they saw me. At that point we are essentially strangers.

However, the withered relationship there is made up for in the bonds I have made on my own terms. Although I am biologically related to those strangers, I am honestly more emotionally bonded and invested with those who I have met throughout my high school experience.

There are no branches of a metaphorical ancestry tree tying us together, all of us are free to leave at any given moment. Yet, due to the time and effort that has been invested into our friendship, I know that I will receive much more from them than just an annual birthday card.

Though similarly, my Oakmont family has gone through multiple series of reconstruction too. I am not going to be graduating in May with the same people I stood by my freshman year.

But at the end of the day, it does not matter who sends you birthday wishes or who notices your slightest mood changes. Family can never truly be defined, because no family is truly the same. Who you value as your family is all that will ever matter.