25 Feb 2021
I had the sheer unmitigated joy of looking after my 8 week old grandson for a couple of hours this morning.
In an attempt to convince him that he could comfortably go to sleep while grandma was giving him a cuddle in the rocking chair, I described for him the photos in the room.
His older brother loves looking at the photos, and telling me who is in them, so I figured maybe it’s a family thing and I took time to explain to little Tommy about his family. He got suitably bored and went to sleep, but it got me thinking about my descriptions of ‘family’ in the photos.
The photos of his immediate family I described as ‘family’ – his parents, brother, his grandparents, aunties and uncles.
Then I came to the photo of my extended family all posing by the river a couple of Christmas’s ago. These people are his great aunties (grunties) and great uncles (gruncles) along with their children and grandchildren. I described them as Tommy’s ‘big family’.
I really liked this description, although it must be said that Grandson #2 was totally blasé about the issue by this time. He didn’t acknowledge my linguistical brilliance with much beyond a yawn.
I’ve been in extended family situations where my siblings try to explain to their grandchildren who all these unfamiliar people are. They try to explain that this old lady is grandmas sister, like that little girl also has a sister. It usually gets a strange look and a fairly uncertain acceptance of this strange person.
But if we are just to explain to the grandchildren that they are going to visit ‘the big family’, maybe that would work better. They are family, but a bit removed from the family that child sees regularly. They are family in such a way that you will see them mainly on special occasions.
But if you were to ask them, they’d no doubt consider themselves to be ‘small family’ members.
Because there are levels of family. What you consider to be your immediate family consists of people who have a larger view of their immediate family. Or have a history of a different immediate family.
As we get older our concept of family adapts and changes. It can be small. It can be large.
It can be both.
It can even be worldwide, when there’s a virus on the loose!