Almost everyone has a family, either the ones they have since the very beginning after they are born, or the ones they encounter later in life. As one of the most significant social units to an individual, the term of family is irreplaceable. It is individual family units throughout the history that formed the population we have today, with the new replacing the old, and it is still growing. By definition, a traditional family is “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not” (Dictionary.com). However, in our modern society, some family models are excluded from this definition, such as single-parent family, or childless family, and etc. Some individuals known as “single parent”, or “baby mama” which is a term for the women or man who have a child with a partner but is no longer in a relationship with said partner. Many types of relationships are not legally recognized by the United States government, but are recognized by the individuals who are in them and family members. What is a family really defined? Do people within it have to be blood-related at some point? Does the content have to consist of a group of people affiliated by kinship or co-dwelling? I believe the answer is no. Evidently, there are other notable groups than just family members in ones’ life. This brings up another significant aspect of a person’s life—friends. Friends to us are the ones who share a bond of mutual affection with us over common interests, shared goals, or sometimes, shared enemies. They are the ones who we feel related to outside of blood-bonded family but as equally important. They are also a crucial part of a person’s life seeing that they are part of a person’s major guidance and influence outside of his or her blood-bonded family extent. In some case, friends can be as close as blood-related family, if not closer. Although to some crowd, blood is thicker than water and kinship stop at the end of their blood line. I believe the term family can be much more extended beyond blood, in addition, some times even more powerful than blood.
One of the few common threads throughout the famous Harry Potter series is the notion of family. J.K. Rowling surrounded the story line with Harry Potter’s deep desire of family and the adventure of Harry has throughout the whole series is also his journey seeking for his own. At the end, he didn’t bring his parents back to life, however, he gained Hermione, Ron, Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, and more. For Harry, family is the sense of belonging, it is a place where he is not treated as an alien, nor as an outsider. At the beginning of the novel, Harry Potter lives with the Dursley family, which is one that belongs to one of the most popular models of family, this family “is at first glance the typical heteronormative family, perhaps even to the extreme; a traditional distribution of gender roles” (Geerts 7). This family has the stereotypical father who supports the family, a mother who’s in charge of the household, and a son who is mostly adored by his parents. Harry, in this case, is genetically related to them since his aunt, Petunia, is the sister of his mother. However, Harry is not loved, but bullied and poorly treated as a member of this family. Living in a cupboard under the stair doesn’t seem like Harry is equally loved. Not only the spatial restriction upon him, but also the psychological unacceptance are what make the Dursley’s not family to Harry. As Harry tries to obey everything his uncle and aunt says, the Dursley’s never welcomes him as part of their family. The distinctions between Dudley’s birthday and Harry’s show that the Dursley’s never perceive and recognize Harry as one of their kin. Nevertheless, the Wesley’s, Hermione’s family, even Malfoy’s family all have this typical heteronormative family shape with slight differences. In the novel, their families are viewed as the more conventional ones which family members share each other’s joy and sorrow. In comparison with the Dursley’s, the families that take Harry in afterwards, even though they are not remotely related in blood with Harry, are the ones that cares more about him than Harry’s blood-bonded family. If a traditional family is so ideal, why would Harry be treated so terribly by the Dursley’s?
In some cases, family might not be the best to argue whether what a decision an individual makes is right or wrong. In the article, Families of Choice? George Ives, Queer Lives and the Family in Early Twentieth-Century Britain, written by Matt Cook, the author discussed the life of George Ives, a well-heeled early campaigner for homosexual law reform. This article is about distinct ideologies of family permitting allegation of gender and sexual identity, and constructing concepts about detailed homosexual society. In his article, he states “Through this (self) negotiation, he found ways of shaping and asserting his masculinity and his sexual identity, a framework for his campaigning work, and a means of finding intimacy and companionship” (Cook 2). In addition, he suggests “Though family was the cause of considerable angst for Ives, it was something he valued, not in spite of his homosexuality but at least partly because of it. It was fundamental to the ways in which he understood and articulated who he was and how he related to others” (Cook 2). In his case, Ives’ family partially helped him to shape who he was, however, it is not always the case for the LGBT community’s families to be understanding and considerate of their children’s decision. Some have to hide in closet for years and wouldn’t dare to come out of the shadow. Along with this case, domestic abuse is another example of a poorly interacted family model. In the case of Harry Potter, his aunt Petunia envies and despises Harry mainly because her sister Lily has the same power which makes Lily the favorite child. This suggest Petunia might suffers the same as how Harry is treated when she’s little. As Geerts states, “this reveals a passive ideology that abuse has an origin in abuse; magic has in a way abused or mistreated Petunia, and in return she abuses Harry”. In most cases of domestic abuse, the abusers are usually also victims of some sorts of violence which eventually leads to dysfunctional personalities. In consideration of these cases, family might not always be the primary source when it comes to individual’s decision.
Friends play a powerful role in almost everyone’s life. Unlike family which one is born with, friends, especially close friends, are family of choice. People usually start to make friends around elementary school when and where they are exposed to more people than when they are little. In addition, people starts to gain more understanding of who they would want to be with and to hold on to as they begin to develop their own hobbies and likes. One might need advice and guidance from their family along the way, but people eventually begin to learn and develop their own value of life as they grow older and depart from their blood-related family. When family is not always around, friends are the most valuable sources one can obtain. Although it is clear that people should make friends wisely, but once one knows who is trustworthy, that friend slowly becomes their family of choice. Yet some readers may challenge the view that friends can be closer than family. After all, many believe family is fundamentally more significant than friends in one’s life. Indeed, my own argument that family of choice could sometimes be more trustworthy seems to ignore the fact that there are more general experience of loving and traditional families than what were discussed above, and the fact that friends can be misleading sometimes if wrong decisions are made. While it is true that family holds a significant role in one’s earlier life and they are the foundation of this progress, it does not necessarily follow that family of choice is any less important to an individual’s development of life. Sometime personality of an individual can be observed via his or her friend group, they are usually a group who share similar experience, common interests, or etc.
“In conclusion, the family, as opposed to home, is intangible, and relies on emotional bonds rather than birth or genetics” (Geerts 5). Ultimately, what is at stake here is that sometime people neglect the significant individuals in their life because they are blood-related family. Blood is not always thicker than water. From Harry Potter, we learn that family matters, but the other families of one’s choice also play a powerful role in people’s life. It gives readers a realistic connection via the mythological magic world. As one develop, individuals need to learn to accept and embrace both families, learn to decide which one is heathier for oneself when two parties are in conflict. People should know how to balance. Family can be either way.
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