There is one thing I find myself saying to my kids I didn't know would be something I would say.
I also didn't know it would be everything.
“This is why you have a family.”
It started as soon as we had our first baby. I felt my heart whisper this to me when my daughter was placed in my arms: “This is why you have a family.” The love I felt for her cracked me wide open. And along with my husband, both our parents, and our sisters were there in that moment our family became a whole new thing. Our families sharing this transformation... this is why we have a family.
It continued when my kids were little and we kept bringing new babies home. The chaos grew, the challenges grew, but as each new person arrived we would place that baby in the arms of the older one and let them smell the baby's head and place their fingers in the baby's hand and cuddle their new friend close. Do you feel the love in your arms? This is why we have a family.
Later, when they were growing up and felt alone or like they didn’t have anyone to play with we would repeat this. Maybe all the neighborhood kids were busy or their best friend had asked another best friend over to play. I would tell them, you always have someone to hang out with you, you never have to be alone, grab a sibling, grab a cousin... this is why we have a family.
As they got older and issues with friends and boys inevitably crept in, I would remind them. Even though today they didn’t have a place at the lunch table, or the car was full so they weren’t included in going to the movie, or a friend was “taken away” by another friend, I would tell them: We are always here for you. We are your team. You always have a place here with us. You will always belong... this is why you have a family.
I remind my husband after a bad day at work when nothing seems to be going right. We are the ones who are here to bring you up. To remind you that you are loved. To make you laugh. To take your mind off of the project gone all wrong or to celebrate when one went so right... this is why you have a family.
I remind myself too. When I have a rough day or when someone hurts me or when I have exciting news, I call my parents or a sister or I walk through the doors of my messy yet totally comforting home and remind myself this is why God gave me a family. To help me when the rest of the world seems to coming apart. To share with when life sends me gifts. This is where I belong. These are the people who have my back. This is where all the love lives for me.
This is why we have a family.
I want my kids to know with their heart that their brothers and sisters and parents are not their only family. Their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and chosen family (who are technically friends but get the titles of aunt and uncle and cousin because chosen family gets special titles) are always on their team.
These are the people who love us, our tribe. In the end, what else really matters?
If we have people to stand by us, to be in our corner, to give us a place where we always belong, completely without condition or expectation, don’t we really have everything we need?
No matter what your family looks like, this is true. Your family might look nothing like what you would see in a 1950s sitcom or it might look everything like it. It might be large and loud or small and compact. It might have peace or be full of conflict. It might love to laugh or love to cry. It might be together all the time or together once a year. What it looks like matters not one bit.
What it feels like is everything. You know your family by the feel, my friends, not by the look.
We all need one. You will know who they are when you hear it. They are the ones who make your heart whisper... this is why we have a family.