Written by Doctor G

Making Friends Into Family

Do you have friends who are so close they feel like family?  Maybe you’ve found yourself looking at your best friends’ children and thinking, “I love these kids.”  Realizing that Thanksgiving dinner or a birthday celebration just wouldn’t be complete without this family that has no blood relation to you.

Many parents are raising kids further from extended family than in years past.  I think this is a trend over the past couple of generations, as education and then work take us further from home.  As technology improves it seems less distancing to be a large distance away.  All that is valid, and is a fair summary of how we ended up in Pittsburgh less than a mile from the world’s greatest grandmother, but far from everyone else.

Then we realized we wanted more family.  It started when my husband’s dad died.  It was about 9 months after we’d moved here and the closest friends we had made at that point rallied around us in a way usually seen only in siblings (and not always then!).  Their assumption that they would cook and clean and help with everything (let me just say that GI viruses and funerals make a very bad combination) was a gift without measure.

In the 7 years since then, we have purposefully and happily enmeshed our two families.  To our joy, the grandparents have come along for the ride, recognizing the value for all three generations in this intertwining.  Their sons have become our nephews, and vice versa.  To quote their 9 year old, “We’re not always together, but nine times out of ten…”

We have “adopted” another family as well, though we’re slightly less enmeshed.  We want connection and have found this way to have it.  We want people we can count on without guilt or obligation or “owing you one.”  Other peoples’ kids who feel comfortable running in and out of our home like their own.  People we love and trust that our children can reach out to when they don’t believe we could possibly have the answers they need.

So, we go to each others’ stuff.  Their son’s band concert, our kids’ end of the season soccer game, even their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in Israel.   All the birthdays, holidays, highs and lows, out of town special events, we include one another and are richer for it.

I wonder sometimes what our kids will think of this as they get older and realize we have forged family bonds out of thin air.  I hope they will feel the solidity of our larger family circle, and keep the connections. For now, the two 9 year olds plan to go to different colleges in the same town and share an apartment.  Works for me.

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1 thought on “Making Friends Into Family”

  1. How to recognize this sort of family bond (which happened without warning and without realizing that was what was happening)? When your children occasionally move one family to the right – and the parents present in that house can still effectively discipline and praise them. When you wash and return size 4T underwear to its rightful owner so often that it has its own laundry basket. When you plan your weekly family meal and say, sincerely, “We didn’t invite anyone this week. It’s just the 13 of us (counting local grandparents).”

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