As we wrap up the month that my girl was born, I think about one of the thoughts I heard on a podcast I listen to regularly. The discussion was related to movies involving the YA/NA / coming-of-age genre. It’s an interesting media group, one that I regularly read, because it is focusing on a major crossroads for the main characters. It’s the point in life where you’re finally starting to make decisions for yourself and one of the big focusing factors is the difference between intentional family and real family.
How many different books or movies do you see where one of the characters has to have a terrible upbringing – absentee or abusive parents, usually – but still turns out to be normal due to the folks that step up and raise the child and become the surrogate parents? Or, more often, there’s the kid that is always going over to their friends place and chooses that family over their “flesh & blood”? More often with the YA/NA genre you’ll see that the characters as they step out into adult-hood select their friends over or in addition to their family. This network of friends (or family of friends) becomes the intentional family for the individual.
The intentional family can be for reasons other than crappy family life – sometimes you are looking for people who are close to your ideological base or sociological values. Other times there is a perception of the individual of having come from a different socioeconomic stratus than the family actually resides and as the individual comes into their own, they want to be with those they feel more comfortable being around.
One of the comments I heard most when I was pregnant is “oh my – how ever are you going to live with yourself, depriving your child of her grandparents?” or some variant of that. It’s true, my children are two or a ten hour drive from their biological grandparents. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have adequate older generation role models. Our closest friends, who we refer to as our daughter’s godparents, have their parents (and step parents) close and these five individuals have stepped up to fill a void at times. But my children do travel well and still see their actual grandparents. But increasingly I see that we have a very strong intentional family around us that fills all the spaces that might have been filled by extended blood relations – Sunday dinners, holiday plans and occasional babysitters among other things. So I don’t feel they’re missing out, I think they’re gaining