Redefining family
Redefining family
Scott Dunlop

Hello again, remarkable parents,

I forget sometimes that when we’re talking about being parents and having a family, that these concepts are different for each person. Not just parents, but children, too. For example, my children have just one direct cousin but growing up I had seven. My wife, Karen, has 26 cousins (and even some step-cousins) so her family is massive to my children (who now have a whole flight of steps).

They’re close to their cousin as she also lives in the same city, and often spend time with her, but their childhood experience is different to mine. As a child, I’d see my cousins for extended holidays and we all have a certain bond. Karen, on the other hand, lived in the same suburb as many of her cousins so they were almost like siblings to her.

I enjoy the intimacy Karen’s family has- we braai together, celebrate events and see each other quite often. My children are getting to know all their steps and they seem to enjoy trying to figure out the step relationship versus the twice removed one and then also who the half-relatives are, too. My youngest is eight, and he gets a kick out being a step-uncle, for example. Cracks himself up laughing about it.

Unless your extended family has fallen out over some trivial reason in the past, it’s great to involve them in your kid’s lives. Being a parent, for some, can cause a sense of isolation. That’s odd, as you’d think adding more humans to your sphere would make is less lonely, but it can place you inside a bubble.

There are parents whose children have no aunts, uncles or cousins, so “family” to them is just parents and maybe grandparents. There’s a special closeness in that situation. I have lived a bit like that, so my brothers and I share many experiences in common that no one else could quite grasp our bond.

Right now, for me, family is a gloriously extended mess. It’s a group of people with loud jokes and generous spirits. I want my children to enjoy the experience of being able to arrive at someone’s house (no need for an invitation) and to be welcomed. To learn to do that themselves later on in life.

I also know that for many parents, close friends fulfil that role, too. Friends closer than family, and that’s a fantastic dynamic to model to your children. The power of relationships.

Extended families, co-parented families, single parents with no other relatives, ordinary families and, what’s more likely, the crazy ones- we celebrate them all!

Why not send us a picture of your family, big or small, to so that we can better understand what you picture when we say the word.

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