Sunday, 3 July 2011

Foibles of family trees

What is your definition of family? What does family mean to you?

A couple of years ago, I posted about a family tree online product we were asked to check out - and I asked some questions. These questions still linger. [Don't go looking for the tree - I've since removed it. See also my discussion about embedded families].
As a school project, I was sometimes asked to make up a family tree. They usually got a streamlined version. I just focused on the less-complicated immediate family bit.

But even then there were things left out.

And that's sad. There are people who have left holes in our hearts, who don't seem to 'fit' on traditional family trees.

You can add in a stillbirth, for example. But what about those babies that didn't make it full term? The ones that were named, and whose arrival was much anticipated. Or the miscarried / aborted ones who left holes and influenced people's lives - although their sex and names were never known. But, each year around what should/might have been their birthday, their mothers grieve and remember.

What about adoption? We're fortunate that our mother was so open, so we knew there was a half-brother out there - and his birthday - but until I was 15, we didn't know him. Another question: how does he and his children/grandchildren deal with their family tree? Do they just focus on the legal/adopted side and ignore the biological (well, what is known of it). 

Then there's other people - those who have no biological link but who are so much a part of your family that there has to be something you can do to show that.

Some of you know about Monkey and her parents. How can I represent this gorgeous little girl I consider a niece? Oh yes, she is family. When her future arrival was announced my then 14-year-old niece said 'yay! I won't be the youngest any more'. She is our niece. Her dad is part of our family. He is an uncle. A brother. But in scientific fact? There is no connection. Emotionally, that is a different story. The reality. He's my ex. My dad was his best friend and mentor. He was the one who started us the journey to buy Mum and Dad's place up north - because he didn't want Grandad (my dad) left up there alone. At formal events (weddings, civil services) he and his partner and Monkey are in the family photos.

In a couple of generations - when we write up our family tree - their influence and entanglement within my family will not be represented.

I ask again - what is your definition of family? Who would be missing from a traditional family tree of your family?

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post Auntie Annie! Because of how our family is with all our extras, I've always had to have partners who could cope with my exes, because I kind of collected them. My family has included Vincent's family for the last almost twelve years - I took both Josh and Murray to meet them when we started dating. Although it's not like our family is with John, we still try and catch up when we can and text and write to each other. Vincent is kind of like my little puppy brother. He drives me totally mental, but I have to love him cos he's family. Same with Josh, but he's more like the big I'm-smarter-than-you brother who I have debates with. So lucky to have Murray who has learnt to understand our definition of family, and accept the additional members!


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