Friday, April 22, 2011

Chosen Family?

When I was a kid, I pretty much called every mother I knew "Mom." As a mother, I've referred to close friends as "Aunt _____" and "Uncle _____" to my kids. The trouble I had with this, however, is the way that people tend to float into our lives and then float back out again. I know it is the way of the world, but it isn't really the way of relatives. I have felt bad when someone got very close to us and spent a LOT of time with us... and then disappeared.

My Wordless Wednesday post this week showed a close friend of ours. In fact, he is my husband's best friend in addition to being a close friend of my own. We both met him (and each other) through work. Now that he lives a few towns away (and doesn't work with us anymore), we don't see him often. To save on gas, we fetch him and keep him for days at a time for longer visits. (Yes, in our tiny one bedroom apartment where the bedroom belongs to my daughter that only lives here part time.)

2007 ~ B2007 ~ Uncle?
Big kids can play in boxes, too!

This was the case this past weekend. We kept our friend for 6 days. He is always helpful when he is around and he is very good with kids (he has 2 of his own). He even took Sasha for a walk so Elmo and I could have a little alone time. We've never sent Sasha out with another person like that! So obviously, we trust him. I found myself wanting to refer to him as "Uncle _______," but stopping myself. It seems like it would be a curse on the relationship. There is a chance he will move far away. We plan to live on the road (though return to visit often). I just... I'm not sure how I want to handle this with our daughter.

Does your family have any chosen relatives? Have you had trouble result from such situations? Do you ever find yourself pushing people away for fear that they'll get too close? I could really use some input here!


  1. This is very close to home for me, and oddly timely as a friend and I were discussing it today. We're a military family and are literally an ocean (and then a continent) apart from our most immediate relatives. All of our close friends here are our family, and in the past six years all but two have left. The two left are our neighbors as well, so they are very close. As my son gets older he gets more and more attached to them and I wonder what will happen when we have to move on in a few years just like everyone else. You make a lot of friends when you move around and I'm getting weary of trying to make and keep new ones as the old ones leave. We do try to keep them close in heart and it will be wonderful one day to travel around the US and be able to just stop and visit with so many families someday. But for now I'm keeping it small and yea, not getting too attached. Seems sad now that I think about it actually.
    We are definitely richer and wiser for the relationships we make, even if they don't last forever, and to be able to pick up where you left off several years down the line is a thing of beauty.
    I think in our case we will take a very buddhist approach to it and try to teach him that the natural ebb and flow of life and relationships is a good thing, as you gain experience and insight through each person you meet and interact with. It will be hard to keep in mind through tearful goodbyes, but kids are resilient and can learn to find the joy in a past relationship without dwelling on the sadness of the loss. (We can too, hopefully!) :)

  2. We do this, too. The only "uncle" we have is actually my husband's uncle, but he's young enough and doesn't have kids that he is basically the girls' uncle. There are a few ladies the girls call auntie, though. My very close friends who definitely are more involved in my girls life, simply because of proximity. Ladies who I know will always know us. Like my one friend is ten years older than me, will never have her own kids, but is just a solid staple in my life. It's really nice to have that certainty sometimes!

  3. @Kari B ~ Thanks for this reminder. Its true, children are SO resilient. Although my older daughter will still occasionally say she misses a car I had for about 6 months when she was very young! Crazy kid! I don't think she remembers most of the people that faded into and back out of our lives.

    I am really curious, though, have you given all those close friends relative type nicknames? I mean are any of them Aunts or Uncles just for being close?

    And yeah, SO awesome to set up a network of friends ALL over the country! Great for traveling!

  4. @Sybil ~ Ah but it is just that kind of stability that I feel is lacking. :-( I have one friend that I have known for 20+ years. She is "Aunt Becca" to my older daughter, but she has seen my 19mo only 2-3 times, despite living in the same town.

    I love the idea of choosing your family and letting those closest know by using such a familiar name. I just don't love handing out overly willy-nilly.

    I don't think I know anyone that I trust to stick around as a solid anything for us, outside of actual blood family. That makes me a little sad. But I do want to travel with my family Full Time, so perhaps that will make it seem more normal. Hrm, food for thought...

  5. Strangely enough, I've always kind of been against nicknaming them with family names. I have a friend who calls all her friends aunts an uncles around her kids. I'm not sure what it is about it, maybe the same new cautiousness you feel about them leaving, but it's never sat right with me- I never felt comfortable being called Aunt Kari when I knew I wouldn't always be around. Our neighbor has become Tia Brenda, but I don't think it will stick as he get's older just because I imagine he'll make up his own name for her at some point. My friend's daughter did that for me and it was very endearing.
    So, my mom had a lot of boyfriends and some wanted to be called uncle. I thought it was creepy, maybe that's why I never liked that idea, haha..
    I like the idea of a nickname tho, to kind of separate the acquaintance from the close friends. I'm sure that whatever she is used to will work fine, like your older daughter. There can be real aunts and friend aunts! She will probably form her own opinions of each them regardless of what they are called. It does set a firm example that anyone can be family, even if just for a little while :)


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