Faux Family and True Friends

English: Large family group portrait at Cairns...

English: Large family group portrait at Cairns, 1886. Large family group portrait in front of a house and on the stairs and verandah at Cairns, 1886. A bird cage hangs from a beam. Creepers line the walls of the house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all of us are from large families.

I’m not. I had a two parent household and I am an only child.  It doesn’t make me “less than” anyone who is from a larger family, in any way.

As an only child, I never had the sense that I was lacking companionship or connection, probably because I grew up in areas with lots of other children around my age to be with.  This will go to my point later.

I think the value of the big family is overstated in too many instances, and it attempts to diminish the value of the more singular individual.  The idea of being from or in a large family is also used to weaken the often more solid bonds of friendships.

When I say family, I mean it in the sense of a bloodline relationship, a large bloodline group living under the same roof.  Family in that sense comes with no guarantees and some limitations.  Frankly, I see more dysfunctional, and less self actualized people from larger families, than I do from smaller families. Larger families often perpetuate ignorance and prejudice as a duty to legacy and tradition.

The point made is that a bloodline connection should be honored over any other free choice association.  I don’t think so.

The story of Romeo and Juliet is an example of how “family” can lead to the destruction of the individual.  The Bible in spite of all the alleged family values it contains also makes a point that ” A man will leave his father and his mother and stick to his wife” suggesting that there should be a break off point to the business of the large family. It also makes references that a neighbor nearby is better than a relative far away, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  There’s also a reference to “who is my mother and brothers” that downplays the importance of association by bloodline.  But my point is wholly earthly and secular here.

Lately,  I see that in martial arts circles, which is an area that occupies my interest and time, much is made of the supposed fact that in certain groups and schools “we are a family,” and that’s used as a selling point: “Why, if you don’t have a family; join us.”  When sports teams win they will credit their success to god and to being a family, however not when they loose.  Many civic groups that meet regularly will say they are like family, and so on.

That annoys the heck out of me.

As if the bond created by friendship, or union by common interest or cause is weaker than the bonds of “being family.”  Whenever I hear the cliche “blood is thicker than water” my mind floods with countless examples of its untruth, and how friendships and free associations have benefited humanity more, and possibly our evolution.

I don’t think the large  family of say two parents, 3-5 children, an uncle and aunt, and at least one set of grandparents, is as great a unit as it once was, when we lived in more isolated  groupings with strained resources.

Farmers and agrarian folk that lived 20 miles from the next people would depend on having many hands to work the field and provide companionship and comfort to each other, since any other contact was a tedious day’s walk away.  Loyalty to that unit’s welfare, and work on that single unit’s behalf were of utmost importance for survival and longevity.

In many places today we can see a family who has 2 parents, 5 children, two spouses, 3 to 5 grandchildren, and throw in one grandparent,  living under the same not so big roof. They live near other large groupings of family and have no farming or herding duties to occupy them all day long.  That’s a lot of opportunity for discord, chaos, inhibition, all sorts of conflict and group dysfunction, and no one feels they need to go, because “we are family.”

Many people attribute that to economic circumstances.  I think it  has to do with an under appreciation of other types of relationships.  Able bodied youths are staying in the fold for the wrong reasons.

Some years ago I read a book that spoke of young people who were moving away from home into urban and suburban environments, and forming what the author called “tribes.”  Not a new thing, though the word is less used these days.  He described how diverse young people were gathering as several roommates. They were cutting their costs of living, sharing cuisines, diversions and recreation, knowledge and wisdom, companionship, emotional and physical comfort, on the road to success and fulfillment apart from their families of origin, and with less conflict.

In this modern setting, being from a large family is practically worthless.  You have to develop a new understanding of your value and function. You are not revered for being from a large family.  You are not considered smarter or of better moral character.  You stand on your own character and contribution, or you’re out.  No undeserving or resentful acceptance of your presence because of “blood.”

Although from different bloodlines, races, and cultures,they learned from each other by expanding their perspectives, they granted each other a degree of  loyalty, associated with other mutually sustaining tribes, and had the understanding that the goal was independence from the tribe to successfully start their own family or tribe. I think it’s a good model.

Historically, tribes are composed of many families, many units, working for themselves and the greater whole.  Today the term “Families” suggests a narrower interest, and it is increasingly at odds with the reality of societal development.

You can’t choose your bloodline or the amount of relatives, but you may be able to choose your tribe, and be the better off for it.

I mentioned earlier about growing up with lots of children.  I really had no sense of what it was to be an “only” child till I was a young man, and then it was a matter or words.  Being around a lot of children, I had plenty of companions, playmates, rivals, love interests, and many dimensions of developmental and learning opportunities.

I lacked nothing that large families supposedly provide,and may even have enjoyed more than they could understand.

Sometimes much is made of the love of a big family.  I come from a small family, that would suggest that I didn’t have as much “love” as that 12 member family unit.

I disagree. When I’ve heard people speak of the love in their big households, it almost always sounds in retrospect, like it wasn’t really evident at the time, but now, they see it.  I saw mine there and then.  There wasn’t a lot of competition for love in my household, there was a lot of love in my household.   Anyway, the love involved is not quantified by the number of people around.

The family unit has its importance, no doubt; in things like the early rearing of children, but I think friendships and free choice associations play a larger role in a persons maturing, growth, and development.

Bloodline made me what I am biologically, genetic traits and all, but friendships, and other associations, have made the larger part  of the person I am. I should acknowledge that.  I benefited from that more that I would have from just inside my family unit.

I hope I can contribute knowledge, skills, productive and positive ideas as well to someone else who crosses my path, who may or may not be part of my bloodline and continue the benefit.

To “only” children and people from small families, you are  not alone, you are not less than.

Be Well.


2 thoughts on “Faux Family and True Friends

  1. As somebody who is an only child, has no brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins that I’m aware of, true friends are the real family. Great post. Love it.

  2. Pingback: “Can’t Teach Ol… | An Unheard Story

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