Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You Can Choose Your Family

In the US we see all kinds of pictures and sayings come across Facebook about friends being family you choose. Here's one example of the kinds of pictures I'm referring to.

The basic thought behind this is that your friends will often be there when your family is not. Your friends will take care of you, get to know you and spend time with you when your family is not around or you can't get along with your family. This is something that you don't see in India. Yes, they have friends and they get really close to some friends. Some Indians I know even openly express how they couldn't live without their friends. It's just not the same thing as we experience here in the US.

Yes, it is similar. There's times we can't live without our friends. Our friends are there to go out with, hang out with, share our secrets, etc. That's the same in both countries. In India friends are even called brother or sister. But here in the US we deal with problems and issues that are rarely seen in India. We truly feel closer to our friends than our families many times.

We don't always have the good fortune of having great parents or extended family. Sometimes we have good family and there's a strong bond between family members but they can't help us with out problems. Other times, due to issues like divorce, non-blood related individuals enter our family and weaken or break the bonds between us. Life happens. Things happen. It could be any number of reasons why we choose to find other people to revere like family.

Sometimes we make friends with actual blood relatives and the familial bond becomes even stronger. Regardless of who we think of as our family, it seems to happen to many Americans. Let me give you some examples from my family.

My father still takes care of his ex-wife's mother. He goes to her house several times a week, calls her all the time, drives her to doctor appointments, etc. He also takes care of her neighbor, an elderly lady who lives alone. He does this because of the bonds they shared, he even calls his ex-wife's mother "Ma."

Having spent an extensive amount of time volunteering in my life, I have 3 children who call me Mom #3. Their mothers are like sisters to me. We all feel like family. We can walk into each other's homes like we live there, cook in each other's kitchens, help each other clean. We never feel like guests, we feel at home when we visit each other. Their girls look up to me, tell me they love me and ask me for advice just as they do their own mothers.

My grandmother took in two children whose mother had passed away. Their father worked a job that required frequent travel and the two boys were friends with my uncle. So my grandmother made room for them in her home so that they always had an adult around to care for them and their father didn't have to quit work.

My other grandmother adopted all three of her children. She couldn't have kids of her own and instead she cared for other's children as a job. She did it for free to help women in the community that needed help. She took in children from all backgrounds and nurtured them. Three of those children she wound up adopting and all three were from different cultures than she was.

These are just a few random stories from my family. I see things like this happen often here in the US. From what I saw in India, issues like these were handled differently. Like the little old lady we take into our home from time to time. She actually is family. She doesn't stay with anyone else. She only stays in our household. We take her food and if she gets sick, we get the doctor for her. Even though she spends a significant amount of time with our neighbors, no one does anything for her but my Indian family (her blood relations).

What are your experiences in the US or India with chosen family?
Have you ever seen this kind of bond formed between non-blood relations in India?
(please do not include husband/wife relationships)

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