What’s A Normal Family?

Ah, families. So much love, so much happiness, so much dysfunction.

I just spent a week with my husband and his ex-wife. Well, it was their daughter’s wedding, so it wasn’t just the three of us. More like a hundred of us. And you know what? It was wonderful.

When I was a little girl, my mother answered an ad in our local newspaper. A pollster was looking for a “normal” family to interview. She of course thought we were as normal as anyone, but we didn’t qualify because she was a single mother raising three kids. They wanted a married couple with children. No way could they get away with that today.

And nuclear family? Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Get a group of only blood-relatives together, and it will explode like an atom bomb. Merry Christmas, loved ones.

I fully applaud and support gay marriage, and single men or women who want to raise kids on their own. And with the divorce rate what it is today, my husband and I realize that potentially 3 or 4 of our 7 kids might end up divorced. We hope not, we’re just being realistic. After all, if it weren’t for divorce, he and I wouldn’t be together—this is a second marriage for both of us. Divorce is a hell in which you either lose a lot of money or a lot of friends. And yet, sometimes, it’s still the best option.

So what is “normal” these days?

One of the reasons that people read books is to explore feelings they can relate to. When a writer can put into words exactly how YOU feel, and you can say “Yes, exactly!”, then, in one regard, the book is a success. But another reason people read is to explore worlds they are unfamiliar with—escapism, if you will. While mining ideas, emotions, scenarios and story lines, it’s important for us writers to remember that the definition of family is wide and varied, and to not stereotype or pigeonhole people. In fact, it’s a beautiful story when a “traditional” family evolves into a “modern” family—when people see love instead of prejudice. Yes, it’s been done (from Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner to The Kids Are All Right) because it works, and it’s beautiful.

With any luck, we writers can help erase the stereotypes and pigeonholes for the definition of family. Hello, Webster’s? Are you listening?