# 40 on my, 99 Life Tips – A List is: You most certainly can choose your family.
The ”blood is thicker than water” crowd will take offense at this statement. As will those who maintain you can’t choose your family. All I can say is, you haven’t met my family…and pass me a bottle of water…please.
I’ve thought a lot about this one. When asked what was the best training for a writer, Hemingway famously quipped, ”An unhappy childhood.”
By this measure, I’m well trained. And unfortunately so are my kids. One of whom has a newly minted degree, and is making a helluva good living as a technical writer. Causality???
Let’s raise ”family” beyond mere genetics
I do not aim to denigrate the institution of family. I’d prefer to raise it to something beyond mere genetic propagation. But the sad truth for many is that while shared genes may have established immutable family roles, those roles haven’t translated into healthy relationships. For them, the last place they can be psychologically, emotionally or even physically safe is around some blood relative or other.
In an ideal world, the role of mother, or father, or sibling, would automatically and by default, create a relational bond of care, nurture, support, and trust. You would always and forever have each other’s back, be on each other’s team, be each other’s cheerleader, and be a soft place to fall when life knocks you down. Some enviable families function this way. They’re admirable.
Yet, you and I both know it often doesn’t happen that way. In too many instances, the painful truth is that the most toxic relationships people encounter in life are with family members. The role of mother does not make one a mother. Likewise, a father, or brother, or even child.
Role, or Relationship?
No one should endure any type of real abuse at the hands of ANYONE else, regardless of their genetic role. Instead, a genetic role should be the foundation for the highest quality relationship. Being family should mean we treat each other better than any other relationship we have. A role, a title, a position, shouldn’t be an excuse to neglect the relationship that is supposed to grow out of it, then shrug, and call that ”family” just because of some shared genes. Huh-uh.
The roles never change. They are fixed by genetics. But unless accompanied by the requisite, appropriate relationship, the role alone is thinner than both blood and water in my book. It is a worthless vapor that you can wave your hand through.
A bond thicker than blood or water
And if that’s the case, you can and should find another family. There may not be a genetic link, but a choice that is free and voluntary, responding to genuine acceptance and love, creates a bond thicker than anything that can be poured out on the ground regardless of its color or viscosity.
I have brothers from other mothers, who have never shown me the slightest disrespect. And I’ve enjoyed the love and nurture of mother’s not genetically my own, who have cared for me as if I was (and at least one father like that, too). I have children with none of my genes, and sisters for whom I would do anything in the world. You can’t choose your family? You most certainly can.
That’s my two cents, anyway.