What Defines a Family?

During my drive back from NH on Mother’s Day, I started to think about a video my mom had sent me earlier in the week, of an unlikely mother. I enjoyed this video for two reasons…


1) the cuteness factor

2) It reminds me of a lesson and truth my mentor/teacher taught me – that being/having a mother, a father, a sister, a brother etc…really has nothing to do with genetics. At first I had a hard time seeing and realizing this lesson’s truth because in my own case I was blessed in having both shared genetics and family members.

Before I go on I want to clarify that this post is not saying that biological family cannot form true family relationships, some people have both, like in my case!

Being a parent to a child (or a sister to a sibling etc…) is truly based on a relationship and a promise made to each other. Like in the video, the cat took on the role as a mother to the young duckling not because it gave birth to the duckling or shares any genetics with it, but because it acted outside its normal boundaries and provided a loving atmosphere that inspired trust in the young duckling. The biochemistry (the fact that the cat just gave birth, and had chemical reactions going on) opens the door to a relationship, but does not define the relationship. So while this unlikely pair formed a bound of mother and child without sharing any genetic material, this door will close if they do not continue to fulfill the relationship.

Understanding this truth is helpful because it may help you overcome obstacles, frustrations and stress by simply understanding a few major points that directly speak to this lesson…

1) Genetics do not automatically make someone your sister or mother or father or brother. Like in the video, biochemistry can open the door to a relationship, but what truly defines a relationship is fulfilling the duties of that role.

2) If you can change your views, this will eliminate stress due to expectations. For example, you may have a biological parent who does not fulfill the basic role a “parent” is obligated to fulfill (of unconditionally loving and inspiring trust in the child.) By realizing that this person is just another person, and that simply contributing to your physical makeup does not make one a parent, then you will cease to be stressed or disappointed when this person does not fulfill their responsibility as a parent.

[Note: Please give time for the learning curve here…understanding that it comes in stages, first one takes time to contemplate the ideas, then one must have the desire to put it (consciously) into practice, and even that does not mean the lesson is fully absorbed, it later will become fully absorbed once it in essence is an effect vs a cause…more on gradual learning later.]

So in short, don’t beat yourself up when biological relatives don’t fulfill their basic roles in the presupposed “relationship.”

3) You may have more “family” relationships than you realize. Someone who is a friend that you trust completely is like having a sister or brother (with the extra bonus that you got to pick them!) This realization can open the door to having many relationships with people who share no genetic material at all. For example, for many people, a spouse is the closest/most personal relationship one can have and spouses do not share any genetic material.

So in short…Genetics does not define a relationship. The relationship defines the relationship. Stress can be eliminated by changing your view/expectations. Not only that, if you realize each person including you is always changing and as this change takes place so do the relationships, you can let go of clinging and embrace the new… (more on death/rebirth of relationships in another post).

What I am grateful for is that these truths or lessons are truly the gifts that keep on giving.

It may start from just an interesting story, then later an experience may trigger this idea to resurface. Once seeing its truth, you may have the desire to then by bring it consciously into practice. Lastly, the fruit yielded from this simple lesson creates a happier person. Happier people yield even more positive ripples that last, on and on…

I am forever grateful to my teacher and mentor for inspiring, for lecturing, for being demanding and critical and for helping me see this truth as well as many other truths because they truly yield a peace and happiness that blooms continuously (which is illustrated by the happy thoughts while driving in the car days after the video was sent.) Also thanks to mom for sharing the video that lead to these happy thoughts.

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