A Family Portrait: How the Picture Keeps Changing
Growing up I believed that the three bears in the tale of Goldilocks were a family because they lived under the same roof and ate at the same table. I also believed that Barbie and her little sister, Skipper, were family because they looked alike, and that Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head were family because they were married. Now that I am grown, my understanding of family has matured, and many sources have helped shape my belief. Carol Shields points out in her article, “Family Is One of the Few Certainties We Will Take with Us Far into the Future,” that all around us there are different definitions and symbols of family (Shields 558). In short, a family does not have to conform to a set mold to be considered a family. For example, a small family, such as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head’s, still qualifies as a family. On the contrary, Webster supports a more traditional view that defines “family” as a household consisting of parents and their children. Relatives and those who share a mutual ancestor are also included in this definition (“Family” 215). Our culture’s interpretation of family is constantly changing, and an amendment to the definition should be allowed for. History tells us that a family consists of a man, a woman, and their children, but I believe that today, that definition should branch out to include non-traditional families, which in some cases could even include, pets and close friends.
Thousands of years ago, a family consisted of a man, a woman, their children, their servant, and any children the man had with the servant. King Solomon from the Bible is said to have had seven-hundred wives and three-hundred concubines. His family was quite literally the size of a small town. In the 1950s, society drew its definition of family from the sitcom Ozzie and Harriet: Two parents with two children living in perfect harmony (Shields 561). Thirty years later, parents are semi-reformed hippies whose children were conceived in a commune. For many, our definition of “family” is learned through what society tells us. Being born means we are somehow connected to someone whether we are the most famous person or the poorest beggar on the street (Shields 559). In its most basic form, everyone has a family.
Today, non-traditional families dominate the scene. The “normal” family is now uncommon in our society (Shields 562). Teachers have to be cautious when assuming every child has a mommy or daddy. Social workers must no longer be surprised when their clients are actually grandparents taking care of their grandchildren. Some children may have two daddies, or some only have a mommy. The list goes on. The culprit creating these unusual families is not always divorce and can include the death of a parent, unwed mothers, or single-sex parents (Shields 562). New families are not required to be biologically related. In an article about her non-traditional family, “Why Do We Marry?” Jane Smiley...