This upcoming weekend, we will be picking up our oldest as he completed his first year of college. Then, he’ll be home for the foreseeable future, as he’s decided that it wasn’t for him. The major was full of people he didn’t want to work with for the rest of his life. The major was one where they wanted more of the same, not someone who wanted to shake up the system to make it fair. The college itself just wasn’t for him. Did I fight his decision? Did I tell him he was wrong and he should suck it up? No. I didn’t. Because he’s a smart adult and I trust that he made this decision after careful thought, not rushing to some rash idea that he stubbornly stuck to.
I was telling my OB about it at our most recent appointment, where she said “I always say that a college education is wasted on an 18 year old.” She’s right. I wouldn’t have been as successful in college had I jumped right in after high school. It works for some people. It’s the right path for some people. But for others, they just waste money only to end up at a fast food restaurant and hoping they can make enough to cover their student loan debt. Will it eventually be the right move for my oldest? Probably. As hard as it is, we just have to sit back and let our children take control of their own destiny. We can’t make their decisions for them forever. Part of being an adult is raising them and hoping that you did enough so that they can make the right decisions for them. Whether you agree with it or not. I trust my son. I support him. I agree he made the right choice. $15k a year is a lot when you realize you have no clue what you want to do with your life. It also couldn’t have been easy for him to do, since he’s spent his entire life working towards this goal.
My love for my son isn’t contingent on his getting a college education, going to a fancy school, or having a fancy job title. My love for my son isn’t contingent on anything. I only want him to be a good person who makes a positive impact on the world around him, while being able to financially support himself and be a productive member of society. That’s what I care about. I’m not better than anyone because I graduated college. Having a graduate degree doesn’t make you smarter than everyone or a superior being. It’s the little things. It’s how you treat others. A person who treats everyone as equals will always be the superior person in my book. You don’t have to put someone down to be on top.
Will he eventually go back to school? Who knows. It’s not my decision. He’s nearly 20. These are the tough decisions that he is going to have to make for himself. But, at least he can make them knowing that he has the love and support of his parents no matter what.
I was hoping that by the time I reached 24 weeks pregnant, I’d feel a lot better not having to manage with morning sickness. I was mostly right, but when it hits, boy does it hit. After going to a few regular checkups, I was happy that despite my age they determined that I was a low-risk pregnancy. That was great news. After that appointment, I scheduled my ultrasound, excited to see our little Beanie. (Bean was the nickname my husband gave her. It stuck with us and has become her name until she’s born.) It was a big day. My husband took the time to come with me, because ultrasounds are never appointments that he misses. It was a great day.
It was sweet. Beanie was active (and has grown to be so active that we now sometimes refer to her as our “Jumping Bean”). She was developing perfectly and she was healthy. There’s no better news to hear in the world. After sharing our pictures with family that day, we finally broke out the Baby Book. One just like I had purchased for the boys. Where I worked on it for a single day and never once filled in any of the other pages. It was a fun time, until I got the email about a message from my provider. I read through it, thinking no big deal. They would have said if there was something to worry about. Apparently it was determined that there was a minor issue: marginal cord insertion.
At first you hear something’s wrong, then you start a spiral of “what does it all mean?” Do you immediately doomscroll through Google? Do you just wait to hear from your doctor? Me, being me, just assumed if the doctor emailed me rather than called me, it was probably not a major concern. I went to reputable medical sites like the Mayo Clinic (which my doctor later confirmed were the right places to go). From what I read? They generally don’t know why it’s really highlighted as much as it is. I avoided mommy blogs, because they’d try selling stuff like “it’s because you need (insert essential oil here) in your life” or “it’s because you were vaccinated”. I read some forums, where everyone who had the issue said “no big deal”. That satisfied me. No downward spiral. No anxiety. What good would that do anyways? Anxiety is not great for myself or Beanie.
Now, I just need to go through more frequent appointments to measure my size and get another ultrasound at 32 weeks to make sure her growth is on track. My OB isn’t too concerned. She told me not to be too concerned. That this is why we get closely monitored, so in case there is a problem they can catch it right away. That ultimately, the biggest issue could be when I deliver, but even then it’s rarely a serious issue. I’ll take the win.
Pregnancy is there to prepare you to just give up control. You can only control so much during the pregnancy and delivery of your child. You can only control so much as a parent. Some things are just out of your control, and being okay with that is the best thing that you can do. No sense in stressing about all the things that you can’t control. It’s not good for you.
I haven’t been around as much as I would like to be. But I promise there’s only a good reason for that: not very serious but moderate enough morning sickness. While I’m lucky enough to not have extreme morning sickness, I have to admit that every day can be a bit of a struggle to function as a normal human being. I’m a “suck it up, buttercup” type of girl, so I do my best. I’ve managed to make it through my work day without too much of an issue, mostly thanks to medications. But once I’m home, it’s hard to do anything aside from trying to get comfortable on the couch or attempt sleep.
It’s exciting though, because my husband and I had always agreed upon 3 kids. That was our number. That was our goal. 3 seems like a good number. Plus, apparently I have 1 kid every 10 years, which is a hilarious thing to think about. When my husband first brought up his wish for another one, I was scared. I’m now 38. That’s an “elderly” or “geriatric” pregnancy. Would I even successfully get pregnant? If I do, what complications would I suffer from? It was scary, but this was also something I really wanted. And I knew I had the best partner by my side through this process.
I had given up after some time of trying. It wasn’t going to happen, I thought. I forgot about it. Until I started to just not feel right and decided maybe I should take a test. I had stopped tracking dates but realized I didn’t know how late I was. It happened. I was so excited that I woke my husband up at what he would deem an obscenely early time. It was 5 a.m. He wasn’t mad. He was excited. 3 tests a day a part later, we started the plan. I chose a new doctor. The next few weeks were getting doctor appointments setup, scheduling viability ultrasounds and blood tests. Explaining that I’ve never had morning sickness but I thought losing nearly 10 pounds wasn’t great. (Turns out, it wasn’t bad since I was slightly overweight, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.) Then having them prescribe medicines that would help. It still feel like death, but at least now I can eat a little more.
The baby was healthy. My blood work was great. I got the Panorama blood test due to my age and risk of chromosomal disorders, which gave this extra benefit of finding out the gender before the 20 week ultrasound. My husband and I hoped for a girl, since we already have 2 boys. But we really didn’t care as much as long as it was healthy. My OB asked me what I thought it was. I told her that I thought it was a girl. Not because that’s what my hope was, but because this pregnancy had been so different so far. With both of the boys, I was exhausted all of the time. I just wanted to eat and sleep. I had no energy. This time, I felt like I had a flu that I just couldn’t shake. She said that she always thought that if the pregnancy felt different, it’s probably because it was and agreed that I might be right. Turns out… I was.
We’re in the second trimester now. 14 weeks. Anything can happen still, but I’m hopeful. We bought our first onesies and footie set for her. We won’t buy anything else for her for a while, just in case. But she is so loved already. She’s the only granddaughter for my parents, which makes it especially exciting for them. But all I can do is follow the doctor’s orders and hope that things work out.
That’s what’s so odd about pregnancy. It’s makes you feel so powerful and so powerless. You can’t really control when it happens. It happens when/if it’s meant to. You can’t control if the pregnancy goes full-term or if you have a miscarriage. Sometimes, things just happen even if you did everything right. But, it’s so powerful knowing that you are creating a life. But you feel so powerless if something goes wrong. I’m trying to stay positive. That this is something that is falling into place and show that good things are coming. I feel such joy and hope, that I’m worried it will come crashing down. But I just have to keep telling myself that what will happen, will happen. I just have to trust the journey.
My school district cancelled school today due to freezing temperatures. Yes, I live in Massachusetts and it’s cold in winter. The sheer amount of people with their panties in a twist over it was shocking. Do these people complaining even have kids? “What’s the big deal?”, I wondered. “This is why the next generation is full of wusses.” That was the answer.
I get it. There is some questionable behaviors from the next generation. But what bothers me is that they say, “Well, it was good enough for us to go to school during a blizzard in negative 20 degree weather…” Great, we should just settle for the status quo because that’s how it’s always been done? Shouldn’t we want better for our kids? Parents in my generation took a belt to their kids. Doesn’t mean we should be doing that today. We shouldn’t just make things, especially with the safety of our children, stay the same when there are things that we could do to improve their lives. For instance, car seats. Car seats used to be optional, but we use them today because it’s safer for kids. But I mean, because not having seat belts and car seats was good enough for us, it’s obviously good enough for our kids. (See how ridiculous that sounds?)
I get it. With stories like a basketball coach being suspended because their team had 80 something points on the other team, there is some level of babying that goes too far. The coach shouldn’t be suspended because the other team sucked. That’s life. There’s going to be something/someone miles better than you. Doesn’t mean they should be punished for it. That’s a line. There’s a difference between a participation prize and a babying prize. There are things that are making kids not ready for the real world, such as not having any rules or consequences for their actions. But, making them walk in negative wind chills is not really the play here. Especially when your argument is, “I have to work in the cold.” Well guess what? You’re an adult. If you don’t want to work out in the cold, get a different job. Isn’t that the argument when fast food employees want more money? It’s just that easy to find a new job, right?
The point is there are things that are making the next generation soft, but is that really necessarily a bad thing? When done right, this is what helps make a generation of people who want to do good in the world, and honestly we could use a lot more of that these days. Now, when they start asking questions like “Is peanut butter and jelly racist?” then that’s a line. When they think they can do whatever they want without consequences (cough: Kyle Rittenhouse, “affluenza teen”, Brock Turner) that’s a line. No one is above consequences for bad behaviors. But frostbite because kids are walking to school in negative wind chills really is not the hill to die on.
My oldest has only been back from college a handful of times since he moved on campus across state at the end of August. He was home a couple of times on random weekends. He came back for a week at Thanksgiving. But next week, our boy comes home for an entire month and I cannot be more excited. While he does indulge his sometimes-too-loving parents on a nightly phone call, a routine he doesn’t seem to mind or complain about, it’s just not the same as having him home. The hardest part of parenting is when they grow up.
They do leave eventually, and that’s the point, isn’t it? We spend all of our time and energy trying to shape them into productive adults that, at minimum, live long enough to move out on their own. At best, they do something remarkable to leave a lasting impact on the world and making it a better place. But ultimately, we just want them to be happy. We want to teach them that their worth doesn’t come down to their income, that as long as they are making enough to get by that’s an accomplishment that not everyone has the luxury of. That they don’t have to accept what they have, because acceptance means they remain stagnant. No. We want them to be grateful for everything that they have, but to have aspirations that take them to the stars and beyond.
When my oldest comes home again, he will be (hopefully) welcomed by his favorite Christmas cookies that were lovingly made by his mother. He’ll get long talks about video games, anime, and superheroes with his father. His little brother will just have long talks about anything, while he politely obliges his brother’s inability to stop talking. He’ll be welcomed home by all of his family that love him dearly, excited to see their college boy that they’ve been so proud of for as long as he’s been born or since he became a part of their lives. The grandmothers will dote on him, asking him about when he’s going to bring home a “friend” or whether or not he’s eating enough at school. He will catch up with his friends and cousins to the point of I’m not sure if I’ll even get time with him while he’s home. But at least he’ll be home, for a month anyways.
It’s always that torn feeling you get though. You want them to go out in the world to accomplish their dreams. You want them to grow up and become the amazing individuals that you believed they would from the minute they were born. But, you want them near you so that you can protect them forever even when you know that you have to let some of that go. For now, I’ll just enjoy having him home.
I’ve always encouraged a little activism in my boys. I told them to fight for what they believe in, whatever that may be. That if they believed so strongly in something, they should educate themselves and if they need to fight for it, then they should. That’s how positive changes are made in the world. Whatever they are passionate about and believe in, that’s what cause they should back. I would support them no matter what. Well, I mean within reason. If they aren’t hurting anyone or encouraging anyone to be hurt, then knock yourself out. Well, I mean also within reason. I think people who hate on others and start hurling slurs at another human being deserves a nice knock to the jaw. Not that I would actively encourage that on any platform. I just won’t denounce anyone for it. What’s the joke? Punching Nazis is the American way?
My oldest son has always been hesitant to fight. He wanted to participate in things like walkouts at the school to support the teachers, but he was afraid of the consequences. I told him that was his choice. But that if he was suspended for doing that, I certainly wasn’t going to punish him for it. I’m a firm believer in the right to a peaceful protest. He wanted to go to college and not have any blemishes on his record. I told him that the right school wouldn’t care. As far as I know, he never participated in those protests. He’s boring. I would bet anything my youngest boy wouldn’t hesitate. Mostly because he’s a bit on the mischievous side. And we love him for his… willfulness.
On my oldest son’s Facebook, he posted a thing about a counter-protest on his campus. This protest was for a supposed preacher who was spewing hate on campus. (I believe no true man of God spews hate. If they do, then that proves my side of atheism because that’s a God I want nothing to do with.) That if you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or support them, you’re going to hell. From what my son had told me about him, he walks around the area where the classes are, speaking fire and brimstone. Which, I suppose tracks for Salem, MA. I’m hopeful this is a sign that he has found his voice. That he was going to use his voice to fight for something he believes in. And I’ve never been more proud of my boy.
It’s empowering when you finally find your voice. Whether it’s being away from your comfort zone causing you to stand up more for what you believe in or age or wisdom or newfound confidence in yourself. Your voice, oral or written, is one of the most powerful weapons you have. You have the choice to use it to fight for whatever injustice you feel needs to be fought. You can use your voice to make a difference. And I will always support a strong voice as long as they aren’t used for the wrong things. If they are used to incite violence or hate, then I will never support that. I don’t care what side of the aisle you are on. As long as you’re being respectful and aren’t running on a platform of hate and/or violence, you should use your voice. The minute we stifle that voice, especially because we don’t agree with it, we’re stifling another person’s voice. And as much as it’s hard to think about in this divisive world, they have the right to their peaceful voice.
Find your voice and use it. That’s it. That’s the advice.
We’re all guilty of taking other people’s perceptions of us and using that to prove our worth. But our worth isn’t dependent on other’s perceptions of us. We determine our own worth. The minute that you let others take that from you, you let them win.
Too many times, we shy away from striving for our dreams. Why do we do that? It’s mostly fear, but is it our fear that we can’t do it? That we’re not good enough? Or, does this fear come externally? Are you afraid of achieving your goals because other people will think that it’s silly? It’s easier to just give up on your dreams than fight through all of the noise trying to achieve them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college freshman or a nearly 40-year-old woman. We all have this believe that we should have it all figured out by a certain age. But let’s be honest here: how many people actually do? I’m willing to guarantee a lot more people died in the world, just winging it because they didn’t have it figured out. Knowing that should give you some type of comfort that just maybe, there’s no age that you need to have everything figured out. And as I always say, “that’s ok.”
You just need to find some passion in your life, no matter how silly you think other people think it is. If your passion is to stay home and raise a family while your partner works, good for you in knowing what you want to do. If you want to be a writer or a teacher or an FBI agent, and you are truly passionate about achieving that goal, the only thing that should be holding you back is you. And if you decide, “nah, maybe not?” That’s okay too. Sometimes you just have to experience it to know whether or not that’s the right path for you.
This can sometimes be the pressure that makes kids more stressed out than they need to be. That they need to apply to college with a specific program and stick to it because they had to have a plan. Then, for some reason, people make them feel guilty for deciding to go another route. Maybe they found that what they though was their passion, really wasn’t. That’s okay. That’s what college is for. I switched my major halfway through. I get it. You have a dream and realize that maybe you don’t love it anymore.
But, you should never give it up for other people. Don’t give them that power. If you are truly passionate about something, pardon my language, then “fuck ’em”. They don’t dictate your life. You do. Take back the power and do what you want with your life. As long as you can go to bed at peace with yourself, you’ll be all right.
I’ve been missing lately, primarily due to illness and general busyness that is life. I’ll be better, I promise.
Among the latest moves in my life was a shift to working back in a normal job, at least temporarily for now. Maybe more permanent later if the option arises. Even if there isn’t another opportunity for me, it’s been really great to be back at it. You underestimate the boosts to your mental to get out of the sweatpants and house for a little bit. It’s refreshing. It’s a little sad missing my boys, but it was time. Even if I’m somehow blessed with another one, it’s still time to be back at it.
It’s still a bit of an adjustment period, especially as I still navigate my writing career on the side. It’s something that I think is important to keep because I like writing and it’s still money. While my writing jobs have taken a hit from COVID, I just take it as a sign that it was time to find something outside of the house. Plus, being home all the time during COVID did take some of the enjoyment I had working from home. But I’m a creature of habit who thrives on routine, so finding a new routine is hard and annoying to get into. I’ll get there though. I’m an intelligent, reasonable, and resilient person. I’ve got this.
This is just a reminder that no mom has it easy. It’s not easy when they work from home. It’s not easy when their sole job is being a mom and homemaker. It’s not easy when they work outside of the office. You’re not going to win no matter what you do. What matters is to not compare yourself to the “more perfect” moms who have everything seemingly together. I guarantee that they don’t. Social media only gives glimpses into an entire story that you can’t see. It’s hard being a woman with all the expectations society places on you, especially when you’re a mother. But, you got this.
We just need to be reminded that we got this. That even on those bad days, we’ve got this. Even if you are too tired to cook and the Burger King is right next door and you don’t care if it’s the 3rd time this week you had fast food because your fridge is still dead. You’ve got this. Even if you feel guilty that you’re happy about being at work and not dealing with tantrums. You really have got this.
People always tell parents that they blink and the next thing they know, their kids are being dropped off at their college dorm or moving out or getting married and they are having their own kids. It’s weird to think that 18 years, nearly 2 decades, is such a short period of time. You don’t even know what happened. One minute, your child is walking around a KMart, with his pants at his ankles because nothing ever fit him right saying “Mommy, pants fall” and the next, you’re making his bed at college and taking all of the pictures you can within reason. Did they really grow up enough to be tossed into essentially total independence? Did we do enough to prepare him? I guess time will tell.
We’re so happy that we’re able to give him this experience. We’re happy that his hard work paid off. He’s had a goal in mind since he was little and worked so hard even at such a young age with the goal of going into college and working for the FBI. He’s spent his entire school career working towards this goal and he got into his first choice college. We’re so proud of him. But moving across state may as well be across the country. Though, I’m convinced even if he did go to a closer school, including my own excellent college within our city, him living there would be too far away. You’re really not as prepared as you want to be when the day comes.
It’s a nice campus. It’s bigger in person than we thought. Due to COVID, we didn’t really get to tour the campus ourselves to check it out, so it was a bit overwhelming. We took ourselves on our own little tour, hoping that when the first day of school starts next week, he won’t be as overwhelmed going to class. His dorm is within only a few minutes walk of a small beach and marsh hiking path. There’s this nice running/walking/biking path in the area, which I teased him for not knowing how to ride a bike. He rolled his eyes at me and mumbled, “I know how to ride a bike” and I responded with, “Last I saw, not very well.” He was always much better with his skateboard or scooter than his bike.
It was hard. My husband had his teary-eyed moment when he started packing up our son’s desktop, because he intends to continue his streaming while at college. He later laughed about it saying that he saw more dads crying at the move-in day than the moms. I said it was because we had to be strong for everyone else and we’d have our meltdowns later when we were alone at some random point of time because we folded a towel wrong or something. Admittedly, despite feeling the tears form in the back of my eyes and throat, I haven’t had that moment yet. Maybe after my youngest goes to school, we’ll see if coming back to the lonely house hits me.
It’s already hard. The first night, it was hard because after our youngest went to bed, we would watch shows or movies that weren’t appropriate for the youngest. We’d connect over these shows, talk about random things inspired by the shows. We’d sometimes group up for Overwatch and complain about how bad the other players were. He streamed with the new shiny webcam that our nephew/his best friend got him as a going away present. We watched, like the weird, stalker-y parents that we were, marveling about the great job we did while also being sad about doing a great job and having him so far away. My husband kept reiterating the point of “if you hate it here, there are plenty of closer schools.” My husband also kept switching between “I hope he loves it there” and “Is it bad I hope he hates it there and comes home?” It’s funny to watch the struggle between wanting your child to succeed at their dreams, but the selfishness of us wanting to keep them our small babies forever.
It hurt a little getting off the Pike back home and hearing a song come on that he would normally sing very loudly to in the backseat. We pulled up to the house to drop off our nephew so he could get his car out of the driveway before we picked up our youngest from my parents. As we pulled up, he still had his “Class of 2021” sign in our yard. It’s been hard to consider taking it down. It was even harder pulling up to see it.
The next morning was also hard. Normally our oldest son, despite having his own room and a very nice, comfortable mattress, falls asleep on the couch. He’s usually too tired from playing video games or streaming that he just goes to bed where his computer is. But he likes having his computer out in the living room because he’s a weird kid who loves hanging out with his parents. I woke up early, as I often do on Mondays to get my husband’s lunch and coffee ready before he goes to his early morning meeting. Normally, I walk into the living room and I have to be quiet as a go in to work and get my husband’s stuff ready. I tiptoed in, only to remember that he wasn’t there. He wasn’t sprawled out on the couch, with his favorite blanket that I got him when we first bought this house 7 years ago. I didn’t have to go over and fix his blanket, even though it’s hot, just because he likes the comfort of it. It was just an empty couch except for our lab/pointer mix Arya, who was laying in our son’s “spot”. She looked at me with sad eyes. “Yes, Arya. Me too.”
I saw the recycling that was still full and normally I would wake our son up to take care of it for me. But he’s not there. Still, I walked around as silently as possible out of habit or even hope that maybe it would trick my brain into thinking he was still here. He’s not. He’s not going to be here to watch our trashy TLC reality shows that we love to watch together. He’s not going to be there sharing the memes from Reddit about the show after watching it together. He’s not going to be there to laugh when I say “kimchi bitches” and imitating the scene from “Nora from Queens”. I’m not going to wake up to hear him in the kitchen and smell the kimchi that he’s eating with chopsticks straight from the fridge at 3 in the morning. Or smell the extra hot yakisoba noodles that he likes to cook up. Or see him walk into the living room with his kimchi ramen, spoon, and chopsticks and watch him quickly take chopstick bites in between Valorant rounds. Or wonder why he has the spoon because he just slurps the broth after the noodles are gone anyways, like normal kids would drink the milk after their bowl of cereal.
It’s the little things that you miss, like the arguing between the siblings or yelling about tossing the clothes next to the hamper, not in the hamper. Or the spilling the kimchi broth as I gag trying to clean it up because I just cannot get over how nauseating it is to me. It’s only been a few days and it’s so hard to overlook that there may be a part of you missing.
It’s for the best. He’s going to be great. He’s going to do great things in the world. I believe that. He’s destined to be the change that he wants to see in the world and he’s determined and smart enough to do it.
Some people go by the traditional definition of family, where it includes a mom, dad, and their kid(s). But family isn’t about some definition. Family isn’t about the blood that connects people; it’s about the love that does. It doesn’t matter if you pushed your child out naturally, had them pulled out surgically, or if you legally or unofficially adopted them. It doesn’t matter if you were born into a family. Family is something that you can build for yourself, with whatever your definition of family is. Because it’s the love and support that matters; not genetics.
Recently for a movie night, our family decided to watch “Instant Family”. The premise of this movie is that the main couple want to adopt a family. While the movie itself was a cute, heartwarming, but silly movie, it sparked a conversation in my family that proves just how powerful art can be. Our oldest, who was essentially unofficially adopted by my husband from around the age of 1, understands that it’s not about the blood relationship. He knows that my husband was there for his first t-ball game, any school event, band concerts, and anything else. He screamed his name with pride from the stands during sporting events and screamed as loud as he could at his graduation. Even after having his own biological child, he never treated our oldest as anything other than his son. It’s definitely something that warms my heart all the time, watching the bond those two have.
After watching the movie, my oldest talked about how he wants to adopt too. He said it wasn’t just the movie, but also seeing the way that his father is with him shows him that you don’t need to be there for the child’s birth to love them. From someone who insisted that he never wanted kids to deciding that he wanted to adopt when he’s older was something incredible to see. Even prior to the movie, my husband and I have considered fostering/adopting. In the future, when we have more money and a bigger home, then that’s something we probably will do. Even my youngest has decided that he wanted to adopt, because “so many kids have no parents and that’s sad”.
The whole point is that you can create a family of your own choosing. You can adopt or foster or have your own kids. It’s about the love that you have for the child, not how the child became a part of your family. Or, you can choose to not have kids at all and surround yourself with friends and family that you love. There’s no single definition of what a family is. Sorry, forget that. There is a definition of family that I follow: People who love and care for each other, always offering support. That is my definition of family.
Don’t resign yourself to society’s expectations for what a family is. Have as many or as few kids as you want. You shouldn’t be pressured to do something like get married or have kids because that’s what a family is supposed to be. That’s someone else’s definition of family and that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Make your own definition of what family means to you.