Unconventional Families

Allison - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on April 23, 2008

I believe in unconventional families. My family is hardly typical and ever-changing. Currently, I have over 30 cousins, a sister, a half-brother, and two step-sisters.

Sometimes, though, I begin to rue all of this confusion. Last week, in driver’s education, I had to fill out forms for my enrollment in the class. The forms, written so expressly that no confusion could be caused, asked simply for a name, address, and temporary permit number. The name and permit number were easy, but I was unsure where to go from there. Mom and my step-father had paid for the course, but the address on my driver’s license was my father’s.

Thinking back on this, I can’t remember which address I ended up writing- I probably alternated forms, driving the secretary crazy- but even such a simple situation gave me cause to stop and think.

That’s why I believe in having a different type of family- in almost every situation, it lends an unexpected dimension to any experience. In grade school it was two copies of handouts, in middle school it was two order forms for sports pictures, now its things as simple as driving forms. And, though these examples sound banal, the fact that my family is so unconventional means that I can consider things that I never would otherwise.

Almost every night, I discuss, or more accurately, argue about politics with my step-father. As he is a card-carrying member of the NRA and a strict constitutionalist who currently supports Huckabee, my mother and I, both more liberal, naturally come in conflict with his views. After I came home from Model UN, he and I had a long squabble about the efficacy and worth of the actual United Nations. Though cliché, I’ve realized that even though these arguments may be annoying while they occur, they allow me to glimpse perspectives that would otherwise have remained invisible to me.

Yes, there are always issues with holidays, as my parents generally disagree over custody and practice different religions, but even this exposure has, in the long-term, been an advantage. The range of beliefs held by those close to me is so comically large- my father is a Jew, my mother a Protestant, my step-father a Baptist, my step-mother a Catholic- that some days, I almost expect to meet a long-lost Muslim or Hindu cousin. But, this holy spread has, I believe, made me more accepting of a wide variety of people.

On a day to day basis, the “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot that book at Mom’s house” moments can make even the most altruistic statement of my belief seem irrelevant and illuminate my whole situation as an irritating mess, but, if I step back and consider, I can easily see that the welcoming, unconventional patchwork of my family is what defines everything about me.