What is family?

One of my favorite books as a child,
(and as a teenager babysitting),
was this one:

Are You My Mother? (Beginner Books(R))

In this story a baby bird falls out of the nest,
and goes out in search for his mother.
None of the objects, animals, or even a digger,
can replace his parent.
It is a sweet and endearing book
and if you don’t own it already you must go purchase it so you can read it to your (future) children/grandchildren. 🙂

The definition of family according to the dictionary is:

any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins

But what if I were to tell you that great books tell us otherwise?
Family is so much more than that.
Anyone who reads knows it.

In Anne of Green Gables,
her family is the whole town.

Anne of Green Gables (Formatted Specifically for Kindle)

Harry Potter had Hagrid, Hermione, and Ron.

Product Details

On his journey in Lord of the Rings Frodo’s family grew from Bilbo,
to include elves, dwarves, and a powerful wizard.

You see, family is so much more than those who are related to us,
and I think that is the primaray function of many books:
to show us how much bigger our “family” is.

It’s true, blood is thicker than water,
but there is no mention of similar DNA. 😉

What is your favourite non-traditional family story? I love to hear from you. 🙂


18 thoughts on “What is family?

  1. One of my favourites of all time is Bridge to Terabithia, a story about a boy and a girls friendship, and its profound affect on the boy, Jess. It also tells of how their relationship strengthens his relationship with his family. Loved it! But also, anything creative, art included, brings me closer to my Father, God. He’s the one who created our talents and so the expression of it brings me closer to Him! 🙂


    • Loraine, I wonder if our need for a bigger “family” is placed in our hearts by God? I loved Bridge to Terabithia…my kids haven’t read it yet. Perhaps that will be next on their reading list. 🙂


  2. Hmm, the first that spring to mind are my two favorite manga – Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket. In Ouran, their club becomes family – it’s a strong theme throughout the book series that unlike one character’s torn family, their club family won’t break. And in Fruits Basket, the main character who is orphaned finds a family in her two best friends and the Sohma cousins. Friendships like that, that go deeper, always put a lump in my throat. (On film, too. When Frodo wakes up at the end and everyone is reunited and smiling and hugging, I get teary every time.)

    I also can’t help but think of the O’Malley series – a group of orphans who come together to make their own family.

    I have strong memories of my mother reading “Are You My Mother?” to my siblings and I. In fact, I can’t read the question without hearing it in her voice.


    • Sparks, I haven’t read those books so I will have to keep an eye out. I remember “Are You My Mother?” vividly as my mother use to babysit little ones and anyone who came to our house sat on her knee to hear that story.


  3. I guess my definition of family falls in between both of yours. Family starts with a husband and wife, along with the parents and siblings of each, and the generations create children as part of the family. Others get adopted into the family, legally or simply by the warm reception where they are welcome to live under the same roof. And it’s the living together that creates family. Close relationships with others, ones who you’ll gladly sacrifice your life for and they for you? That’s friendship. Sometimes, friendships are closer than family. I always think of David and Jonathan in the Bible and how Proverbs 17:17 fit their relationship.


    • Linda, yes family is defined as the blood unit but I find that many of my friends have become family. The line of distinction is blurred (at least for me). And, we are part of God’s family and that is not a “traditional” family. I don’t think I would consider brothers and sisters in the Lord as mere friends. But that is just me. I guess, for me, the living together does not make family. This view may stem from the fact that I’m adopted though.


      • “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!” 😉
        To me, family loves unconditionally and is always there for each other. When we had a kitchen fire a few years ago and needed a place to stay overnight, my first thought was our nearby in-laws. My husband called first to ask and fretted that they may not want us to come and all I could think was, “we’re family – it should be a given! With my parents, I wouldn’t even need to ask!” And when we moved 5 years ago and I came down sick so we needed help unloading the truck to return it in time, we called a local church to ask if anyone could help. Strangers or not, as family in Christ, we knew a healthy church should be able to help – and they did!

        To me, David & Jonathan are a prime example of family by friendship – even had they not been related by marriage (David married Jonathan’s sister). There are families who live together, are biologically or legally related, and yet lack the love to be much of anything.


        • Amen Sparks! When I had cancer my church family stepped up and brought meals, looked after my very young kids and helped take me to my many appointments. I thank God for them each and every day! 🙂


  4. I have been paying attention to how badly our current society would very much like to redefine family. It is very much a mixed bag, but I believe the push to move away from one father (hopefully the same of all the children) one mother (hopefully the same of all the children) and siblings. That is more the ideal anymore than actual practice. In the fifties and sixties the extended family (grandparents, uncles, cousins, living close bye one another) was being replaced by the nuclear family (mother, father, siblings). Now it seems that there is an effort to redefine family, and maybe because this is due to the fact that the nuclear family is becoming extinct.

    One thing worth noting. For Young Adult audiences, the protagonists are often orphaned characters in search of family. That is simply because no self-respecting parent would let their kids get involved in dangerous antics. It is also important to note that parent roles are greatly underplayed in YA books, but there is usually an adult mentor (Hagrid?) of some kind to facilitate the plot and character in place of parents.


    • That is true, Tim. I don’t want to “redefine” family in the secular sense. I want us to realize that there is a bigger sense of belonging out there. True, many newer books need kids to get into antics without a parental unit. But I think we would be wrong to ignore our role in a larger “Christian” family. Again, my sense of family in books may come from the fact that I am adopted. Having a larger sense of family may have saved my sanity. 😉 (Or not if you asked Lisa…lol)


      • The most interesting thing from a scriptural perspective is that family references are used throughout the NT to define the nature and character of God, Christ, Church. It makes me wonder about impact on the understanding of scripture by the upcoming generations as the redining of familial images transpires. Take gay marriage and Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church, or now, with absentee fathers and how that shapes a persons understanding when they read that God is like a father. How we define “family” and “family roles” affects how we percieve God on a very deep level.


        • I would agree Tim. It’s a very disturbing trend. Although the idea of “abusive” and “absent” fathers is nothing new. It already distorts Christians perceptions of God. The flaws of all earthly fathers colour our view of God the Father (no human is perfect). We have to be very purposefully in our reading of the Bible to unearth the true character of our Heavenly Father.


  5. I remember READY MADE FAMILY by Francis Salmon Murphy read to me by a teacher as a second grader. It made a huge impression on me, as I still remember it after all these years. It was about three children that were taken in by a married couple as foster children. It was a book ahead of its time, and I can still picture myself sitting at a desk in school listening to the story. It was exquisitely written and was one of the books that force you to read up, even by the standards of the sixties.


  6. I grew up in a traditional nuclear family – mom, dad, & sister. I also had two sets grandparents that lived close. My aunts, uncles, & cousins were all out-of-state but we saw all of them at least once a year. My adult life has been much different, I’ve lived most of that time across country from my biological family. Ladies in my church have become surrogate mothers, grandmothers, & sisters. Never replacing those of my blood but augmenting my “family”.


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