This is a very interesting time of year to think about “family”. First, there are those people who live in your home. The kids, partners, spouses and animals who gather together for a daily mishmash of happy, anxious, calm, crazy, loud, frenetic, tender moments. They are, by definition, a “family”.
Then, there is the “family” that you came from. The parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, who celebrated holidays, birthdays, deaths, Bar Mitzvahs, Sweet 16s, hospital visits, brunches and late night talks together.
We must also include the friends who become “family”. The ones from the office, who know that you and your wife talked this morning about whether or not you should say something to your child’s teacher about the horrendous grade that was sent home. Or the people at school: the school nurse who gives your child medicine every day or sends your daughter home with lice. The assistant principal who gently, but firmly tells you that your son will get a “break detention” because he was “socking” his friend (no, not that kind of “socking”; the kind where he tries to make his buddies socks fall down with his foot).
And your friends who listen while you talk, complain and rail about your other “family” (you know, the ones who raised you or you’re otherwise related to). The friends’ who tell you what you need to hear in the most blunt and loving way: “That dress is no good on you”; “You need to quit that job because it’s not helping you to better yourself”; “You know what you need to do, so just do it”; “I know that you protect yourself from others, but I don’t want to be one of those people”; “What about you? Aren’t you important enough to take care of”? Just because they don’t live in your house, and never did, are they any less a “family”?
Those are the people who come into your home and do the dishes without asking where anything goes. Those are the ones who go outside with your children for 2 hours, without knowing “what are we going to do”. They are the ones who take your children trick or treating when you can’t mentally get off the couch because you’ve spent 2 full days combing bugs out of your daughter’s gorgeous hair. They feel as though you’ve shared a gift with them because you thought to text them a picture of your children “just because”.
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection and of gratitude. Unfortunately, it sometimes becomes mired in “who’s coming”, “who’s not coming”, “when are we going to eat”, “who made that pie—it’s awful” and “Steven’s girlfriend chews with her mouth open”. I say, let it go. Let us be thankful for the family that surrounds us. Let us be grateful for where we came from, but also, enjoy whom we are with and not let the “holiday” be the most important part of the day. Let’s be thankful for our blessings of burnt turkeys, when others have none; our messy, loud, engaging, infuriating, delicious children, whom are doing just the best job they can of growing up into adult people; our parents and grandparents whose approval we do not always get, but are so lucky to have them around to be judged by and try to do better next time; our spouses and partners whose family’s didn’t do things “that way”, but with whom we have the opportunity to make new traditions and memories. Let’s be thankful for all of those people, places, situations and experiences that make up our collective “family”.
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Kathy Forman, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist. Ms. Forman graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1991, with a Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders. She then received a Master of Arts in Speech and Language Pathology from New York University in 1994. She has worked in a variety of settings, including pre-schools, elementary and middle schools and private practice. Kathy has served on a number of committees, including: an Inclusion Committee for children with special needs, Parent Education Committees, Parent Outreach committees and Parent Teacher Organizations. When not working, Kathy enjoys cooking, reading, running, riding her bike, and hanging out with her two fantastic kids, Max and Sadie, and her lovely husband, Dave.