I grew up with a small family with extended members residing in the midwest and eastern states. My immediate family was all I knew, and while we were small in number, we had each other and it was good.
When I married my husband and inherited an extended family of epic proportions, I had no idea what it meant to be part of something so big. There was so much history, so many traditions, so many names, and so many people I feared I’d have to somehow win over. But my husband’s family wasn’t like that. They loved him for the person he was and for the place he held in their family. He was more than just a son, nephew, uncle, brother, or grandchild by title; he was a beloved piece of his family’s living history and suddenly, so was I.
Thrust into a family so much bigger than my own was a little daunting at first, but one thing was always crystal clear: I belonged. I wasn’t an outsider looking in, a person with cultural differences, a person who had to work for acceptance, I was family. Simple.
Now, nearly 15 years of marriage later, I understand the gift that my husband has given to me and our children with his extended family. We belong to something bigger and better than our family of four. We belong to a living, breathing organism that supports each other in spite of the oceans between us, because we’re family. Simple.
This weekend our extended family came together for a wedding that celebrated more than the love between two people, it celebrated family.
The ceremony 1 of 5
My husband's family gathered from far and wide to celebrate the union of two very special people, but I swear every one of us felt enough love and warmth to believe this day was about our very important place in this family.
The 3 C’s 2 of 5
The three namesakes gathered together along with Boy Wonder and BooBoo. Here my husband is pictured with his cousin and grandfather.
Sisters-in-law 3 of 5
These beautiful ladies are each married to my husband's cousins. Ever lovely and always gracious, these wonderful women love my kids as if they belonged to them. The feeling of belonging to more than just Mom and Dad is the gift I never realized I always wanted for my children.
BooBoo’s hero 4 of 5
And then there are heroes. BooBoo is particularly fond of his second cousin who is also an American soldier. "Someday I want to be just like him, Mom!" Boo tells me.
We are family 5 of 5
As much as we provide to our children as parents, our collective family has the power to open their eyes to valuable new experiences and traditions. Their stories teach, their values influence, and their love makes our children feel important and secure in the knowing that familial love and support isn't confined to the roof of their home. In some lucky cases, it spans the globe.
How important is extended family to your children?