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When Friends Become Family

Family is family. Family is blood. Family is your DNA. Family are supposed to be “your people”.

But what if that’s not the case? What if most of your family members are more like distant strangers? What if you haven’t talked to certain members of your family in a long time?

My childhood was fairly normal. I grew up with family all around, attending extravagant holiday parties with all of our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Birthday parties were epic and everyone seemed so happy to always be hanging out. I don’t really have many memories of people not getting along. Or maybe it was just something I started blocking out at a young age.

My father died three years ago when I was 25. While I still have a relationship with my mother, I virtually talk to no other members of my family these days.

So, what happened? How did we get to the point of not really wanting anything to do with each other?

Politics? Parenting views? Living in different states? Frustrations that we never talked through? Grudges we couldn’t get past? Not taking the time to see other’s points of views? Not taking accountability for our own actions? Anger about how the others are living their lives? Not respecting everyone’s own journey?

Somewhere along the road, our communication ceased and nobody really batted an eye. We're all to blame for different reasons. We all sort of moved on with our own lives and didn’t take each other with us. It really is sad. But I guess, sometimes, family can be toxic enough to no longer serve us.

So what do you do when you feel like you don’t have a family? You make one.

One of the coolest things about being your own person is that you get to decide who is in your life. You get to create your own family with people who love you. I always thought family had to be those people you shared common ancestry with. But even Webster defines it in one way as “ a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation; fellowship”.

Family is giving you a soft place to land when life seems like too much.

Family is knowing your unfavorable traits but loving you anyway.

Family is having your best interest in mind, always.

Family is defending each other when someone does one of you wrong.

Family is supporting one another even if you don’t always agree.

Family is telling someone you’re emotional and them choosing to come over without hesitation.

Family is calling you at all hours of the night when you’re nursing a baby so you have someone to talk to.

Family is Amazon-ing you that book you keep talking about but won’t buy.

Family is sending you flowers when your dog dies.

Family is seeing your house as a complete disaster and helping you do the dishes without judgement.

Family is giving you a break from your children when you can’t fathom listening to another fight develop between them.

The friends who become your family can be even more special because you chose each other with no obligations. How beautiful is that? You chose to be a part of each other’s lives in a deeper way because your bond is so unmistakable. These are people who support you and understand you. It comes without strings attached. Instead, you’re embraced with unconditional love, warmth, and acceptance.

Choosing your friends as family doesn’t mean you forgo your blood relatives. It simply means that you choose to grow a separate branch on your own family tree. Sometimes that branch is watered the most.

My best friend Amy isn’t my sister, but I consider her one. We met in an online twin mom group when we were pregnant with our twin girls. At the time we both had four girls and she stood by me when I adopted my brother. Recently we both got pregnant with boys. Our lives are so remarkably mirrored and our bond is unbreakable.

I have another best friend named Andie that I met in 7th grade. We are always talking and she’s been like a sister for 15+ years. Her and I have seen each other go through really trying life events and we’ve supported each other through all of them. We've also celebrated the great successes each of us have had.

Some of us live far away from family, so it’s almost imperative that we build closer relationships with those around us. Life can feel very lonely when you aren’t in the same vicinity as those you grew up with. Learning to trust others in the same way you trust your family can be scary and daunting. But opening up your heart and letting your guard down is a huge blessing.

I met my other best friend Amber when we moved to California. Her family adopted us as their own. Her mom became a grandmother to our children. It was so easy to accept one another in our lives because we weren’t afraid to expand our circle. It can feel really intimidating to be vulnerable to people you just met. But one of the best things I did was open up to Amber and her family. I’m so thankful that they did the same.

I have three “sisters” from very different stages of my life. Each of them is so important to me for different reasons.

My hope for my own six children is that they all continue to have very tight knit relationships as they get older. I pray and pray that they don’t have huge falling outs that aren’t reparable. If they find themselves on the other side of the country from us, my wish is that they are able to find friends that become their family, too.

Blood is thicker than water, but water is fundamental to surviving.

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