Many are familiar with the old proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” As a young boy, and many times since, I have heard that proverb followed by the phrase “but love is thicker than blood.” The first time I heard it, it was when my older sister was fighting with my Mom about a boyfriend, and at the time, I didn’t agree with it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found it to be increasingly true – but not in the way my sister intended it.
I have a large family. But not in the same way many do. You see, my mother has been married three times.
My late father was married twice, as has been my step-father. In my mother’s, father’s, and step-father’s first marriages, they each had two children. My mother married my father and they had me. Then my mother married my step-father, and they adopted two children. As such, I have 8 siblings – two half siblings from each of my biological parents, two step siblings, and two adopted siblings.
Every family is different. I have met many people with full siblings, half siblings, step siblings, adopted siblings, and more. Everyone looks at family in a different way. For some, a half sibling is an estranged, distant family member, a step sibling is an acquaintance, or best case, a friend, and a step parent may be little more than a parent’s new flame.
For me, these words, step, half, and adopted mean nothing more than missed opportunities, and these people mean everything! Family is a lot more than shared genetics and DNA. Family is support, trust, and companionship. Family is love.
This way of thinking was fostered by my parents. When my mother and step-father got married, our family was immediately just that – our family. ‘Step’ began to feel like a dirty word in my mouth. Even typing it so frequently now makes me slightly uncomfortable. My step-father is my Dad. My half, step, and adopted siblings are my brothers and sisters. They are all that I’ve got, and they’re my best friends. Their children are my nieces and nephews, and, until my wife gave birth to our first son last December, they helped me be able to remain patient while I waited to be able to live my dream of having kids and a family of my own.
Likewise, many don’t get along with their in-laws, nor do they see them as family. I can’t imagine living a life like that.
Undoubtedly, I will see and interact with my wife’s family for the rest of my life. Fortunately for me, they see family as I do, and consider me one of their own.
Finally, many times in life the people we choose to surround ourselves with – our friends – become family as well. That has been the case in my life. Many of my close friends are like siblings to me, and I consider them like aunts and uncles to my child. I have spent a great deal of time and energy fostering a strong and loving relationship with these people.
If you are one of many who see the world and family differently than I do, I invite you to reconsider.
By limiting your family, you’re ultimately just limiting your happiness.
I know that it can be scary to let people in, open our hearts, and expand our bubble, but you’ll never know the happiness it can bring, and the happiness you could be missing out on, unless you try it. Besides, what do you have to lose? (Wood is a Serve Daily contributor.)