Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Defining the notion of family, friends and general togetherness

I sometimes become very confused at the way families work, especially given that I have spend most of my adult working life working in schools. Everybody is related. There's nothing quite like finding out that three boys in the same class are all actually brothers with different last names. (I can explain that one, but I won't.) And over the past few years I've seen plenty of aggravation around the idea of "I'll get you if you hurt my sweet and innocent sibling," which is kind of funny because Miss Sweet and Innocent most likely started it. Way back when I was not interested in any way, shape or form what my brother was doing on the playground - most likely doing boring boys things. Times, they are a changin'.

I still believe in wishing wells.

So in my house there lived Mum, Dad, Matt, Trent and I. And I had my small but extended family, including my four grandmothers and two grandfathers. If that's confusing, it isn't intentional.

Then I moved to Adelaide, made friends and then decided that friends can be just like family.

We don't usually go out in swimming attire for breakfast. The Temptation was calling our names.
Okay, with some notable exceptions.

Things that Urban Families can't do:
1. Do to the doctor with you. Alright, go and actually see the doctor with you. Because that is kind of creepy.
2. Keep holding onto your possessions for a really long time, to the point where they have assumed that you have taken it back, and actually it's just hidden behind their sheets in the linen press or something.
3. Actually be related to you by blood.
4. Pay for your wedding.
5. A whole bunch of other things families do and uphold. No one will get our strange Holbrook in jokes quite the same way, even if they are explained. In detail.

But Urban Families can do this:
1. Be on your side always, even when you are wrong.
2. Come around at most hours of the evening or night, especially when you're sick, sad or heartbroken.
3. Take you out to mend a broken heart, get drunk themselves and make you go to HJs for their burger cravings in your own car.
4. Drop boring stuff at the drop of a hat to do something fun.
5. Be your friend, not because they have to be but because they want to be.

Of course, Urban Families don't have half as much wisdom or insight as your own family. But they are pretty special.

For awhile there I had my family and my urban family. Of course, my real family remained the same core group of special people. My urban family grew and declined, but is essentially made up of most of the same members who started it all. Like the Baby Sitters Club, but better.

Now, I'd always had boyfriends, but somewhere along the way I realised Stephen was really my partner. Not because we lived together, because we didn't until after we were married. But we were making decisions and including one another in them - big decisions like purchasing things for our future home and bigger decisions like deciding to stay within a reasonable distance from one another. The way I saw it, a boyfriend was a nice guy who took you out on dates and may or not want to marry you. A partner was long term and someone you shared pretty much everything with, and not just to do with money, but experiences, and the really tough times too. And goals and secrets, and dreams and all sorts of things boyfriends aren't always very good for. Or, as I have decided, if your partner hasn't seen you without makeup, I don't think it counts as partnership. Not that you shouldn't dress up for your significant other, just sometimes it doesn't happen. So anyway, here we were, going on holidays and planning school work together and co-ordinating our incredibly jam-packed timetables...

And one day this happened:

The First Look. Yes, the grin looked even cheekier in real life. If you know Stephen, you'll understand.
So for a long time I'd kind of thought we were a couple with a cat and not an actual family. Fortunately a few things settled this lie for me.

Why couples are a family:
1. Statistics. ABS declare that a couple is a family.
2. Family leave.
3. Just because couples have a small family structure, doesn't mean they aren't an actual family. My mum has always said that family comes first, and since being married I think we have done that with relative success.
4. I don't know about you, but at night I come home to my family. Okay, so maybe I don't have any demands like mums do, and maybe I do just have a cat to feed and that's it, but home is really where the heart is.
5. Because you can choose who you marry in this country. In fact, it is the law to choose who you marry! So I chose Stephen and we are a family.

A lot of people tend to politely say things like "Sooooooo... when are you going to start a family?" Rational Lisa knows that this is their polite way of saying they want to know when we plan on having children. As I've been informed, this is a common occurrence for newlyweds. But it shouldn't be.

The stock answer I give to everyone, and it isn't a white lie or otherwise, is that we are enjoying just spending time together. We never lived together before we were married, we didn't spend every day together, seeing as we lived apart all the time we were dating. Can't we just be married and not worry about children? But then, I also consider that fact that we might not be blessed with children. There's no evidence saying this will happen, but what if we couldn't?

I dread hearing this family question, but I also dread it more for those couple who desperately want children or have lost children, or just can't have them in the foreseeable future. You, my coupled friends, are a family now. You started on the day you were married, or decided on your partnership, however long ago that ways.

So, when are we going to start a family?
We already are one.

I have three families. That makes me just a little bit special.