‘Ohana’ means family …

DNA, not so much.

‘Ohana’, explained Lilo in Lilo & Stitch, means ‘family, and family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten.’

My children and I live by this mantra. We are a family. DNA does not necessarily dictate who is, and who isn’t family. Not to us, anyway.

I have a sister of mine who is a close to me as my biological siblings. And I love her equally as dearly. What’s DNA if two people are playing the role of family members to suit any sitcom trope of the definition?

On this Family Day Weekend, I’m reflecting on who family is to me. And really, it’s simple. ‘Family’ are the crew who are championing you to success. They’re who you call when it all falls apart, and they build the blanket forts, or just provide an ear, or are ready to show up with a coffee and a chunk of advice.

They’re the ones who question you on that partner, but invite them to their table, just to feel them out. Because they support you. Family raises an eyebrow when you’re acting out of sorts, but let’s you naturally come to them when it’s time to spill. They’re the one who applaud your job promotions, who embarrass you at karaoke bars. Who post the photos that make you cringe on Facebook, remember your kids’ birthdays and apologize when they don’t. Family internalizes your skeletons, and shuts the doors on your closets – guarding that door with a lock and key so fierce, even the strongest of storms couldn’t break it free. Family.

Unpopular opinion – you’re not required at that family reunion. The one where a bunch of strangers congregate under the guise of tradition. The one where they murmur about how you got fat, or skinny, or wonder strangely “where has the time gone” when they see that your infant, is in fact, a grown ass teenager staring back them blankly because they have really no idea who they are.

Family is stitched together over tears, and triumphs. Family are the tribe you built on a legacy of long weekend trips to the beach, the Facetimes at Christmas times, and the silliness of inside jokes. Family, to me, are the people we have captured in our hearts, and can’t imagine another full day without them a part of our lives.

Don’t confuse DNA with family. If you are struggling with the concept of who family really is, look deep into the well of souls that line the fibers of your life. This could be your work family, or your neighbourhood family. It could be the family of people who brought you back from the brink, and assured your success at sobriety. Family could be the people who share your last name, or your middle moniker. Family can be any person who you’ve collected in your kaleidoscope of experiences. Family. It can be the people who share your blood. It can be the people you’d bleed for.

On this Family Day Weekend, my three biological children – who are half siblings to each other – my boyfriend, who’s not yet my husband (though the Government considers it so), his children who are not yet my step children, but I share a home with them anyway – this rat pack of misfits … all seven of us … are a family. And we wish you a blessed Family Day. With the people who congregate at your family’s table.

— c ☆

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