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The Meaning Of Family

March 26, 2021

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind.

– Lilo and Stitch

Lilo and Stitch was released almost 20 years ago. My family was just getting started. We had four kids. We added a fifth in 2002. Over the coming years we would add eight more.

Thirteen is a large family by any measure. My lovely wife is one of 15 children. I have a friend who has 23 children. But, just because I know about bigger families doesnt’ mean I don’t understand my family is very large.

I’ve often thought about what makes a family. Like many people my age, I was a child of divorce. I have a full brother, a half brother by birth, a half sister and two half brothers by adoption. I guess technically, there are three other half sisters by adoption from my dad’s first marriage. One of my brothers has a half brother by birth and a set of step-siblings that are no relation to me.

I don’t think Lilo and Stitch had it correct. Family doesn’t mean that no one gets left behind. Lots of people get left behind. For example, using my own example, of the “siblings” I mentioned, I claim two brothers and a sister. Am I right? Are the others not my siblings by blood or law? Maybe. But, I decided a long time ago to choose my own relatives.

My family has been touched by horrible abuse years ago. It’s driven a wedge between family members at times. In fact, I have family that doesn’t want to be in the same room as certain other family. Everyone is adult about it and doesn’t make an issue of it.

I saw a picture today of my family shortly after we completed our final adoption. As far as I know it’s the last picture of all my kids and us. It’s from about 15 years ago. Well before our oldest got married. Before any grandkids.

I look at the picture and think about how much potential we saw. We had hopes and dreams and ideas about what the future might bring. Looking at the picture, everyone is smiling.

We have a lot of family pictures since then. Each one has some subgroup of our kids, and now grandkids. Some of my grandkids have been adopted out of the family. It’s okay, I still count them. We pick our family, remember?

I know some families that are more fractured than ours. I know people who never speak to their parents. Parents that disown their children. That’s not me, is it?

I have a daughter I haven’t spoken to in months and don’t even have a current phone number. And when I was adopted by my step father at 14 I turned my back on my birthfather. I didn’t speak to him for almost 40 years. It’s okay. We reconnected and talked again.

So, the family breaking habits that I condemn in others, are in my history as well.

What is family? Is it defined by blood? Marriage? Association? Adoption?

I’m not sure what the ultimate definition of family is, but I do know that Disney got it wrong. Family is complicated. It’s messy. And it even means that sometimes we leave people or things behind.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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