Now that I have reached the mature age of fifty plus, I wonder about the word “family.” In today’s society, the word family conjures up many more images than it did in the 1960s when my family began its gradual disintegration. As a result of this new version of family, I believe there will be fewer scarred individuals 50 years from now.
When meeting a family unit consisting of what appears to be a mother, father and two or three children, one cannot really be sure if this is a biological family. It could consist of any number of different scenarios. For example, the children could belong to either parent, or each child could belong to one parent. Perhaps the children are adopted, or maybe only one is adopted. Are the parents married or cohabitating? Maybe they are just friends sharing the same home for economic reasons. Also, many children today are raised by grandparents. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, for the most part, today’s society is accepting of a much broader definition of family than it was 50 years ago.
Back in the “olden days” when I was growing up, the only acceptable family was the traditional, biological family. As a result of my parents divorce, my three siblings and myself grew up being ashamed of our family and rarely chose to bring friends home. Through most of my school years, I was the only one in my classroom that had divorced parents. At school concerts or other activities where parents were invited I almost became physically ill thinking about my parents attending. I would often “forget” to tell my mother about school events. What made the situation even worse was that my mother was cohabitating with a man. Living with a man whom you were not married to was completely taboo in the late 1950s and early 1960s. If my mother brought this man to school events, it would be even worse for me. How would I explain his presence to my friends and even my teachers? Everyone would know he wasn’t my father, because my father had been at the school to pick me up. My friends had met my father, but I failed to tell them that he did not live with us.
At other times in my life, I lived with my grandparents who were wonderful people. They attended school concerts and parent/teacher interviews, however, the next day I would have to face a borage of questions from classmates, as well as the accompanying looks confirming what I already knew, there really was something wrong with me. Even worse were the looks of pity. “Were my parents dead?” they would ask. “No” I would reply. “-Well, why don’t you live with them?”
Even forty some years later, I can still feel the sting of growing up in a family that did not fit into society’s definition. As times change, many lifestyles that are considered unacceptable and taboo today, for example gay marriages, will become just another lifestyle choice in the future.
Something to think about.