Posts

Happy or dysfunctional? Says who?

Rebecca Walker, author of One Big Happy Family, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Walker’s book is a collection of essays about how the American traditional nuclear family has changed. It’s late and the … Read More

By / February 16, 2009

Rebecca Walker, author of One Big Happy Family, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Walker’s book is a collection of essays about how the American traditional nuclear family has changed.

It’s late and the littlest one in my house is sleeping in my bed with the bedside lamp on, and five inches from his face. What my son calls his "favorite artist" is on eternal repeat on the Bose iPod thingy, and I have the distinct feeling that if I have to hear Ayub Ogada sing Kothbiro one more time, I will lose my mind.

As I pull the covers down, I see that not only is my four year old sleeping in my bed, but his Diego underpants have not been replaced with Pull-Ups! And he’s sleeping with not one, but six of the little plastic people from his Automoblox cars under the pillow.

A discussion between my inner attachment parent and my inner pro-individuation parent begins. Should I put him in his own bed? Wake him up to put on a Pull-Up even though he probably won’t need it? Then I remember I have more important things to worry about, like whether my biological son is going to have a relationship with my non-biological son, even though they may not meet until they are both adults.  

Oy.

One day I realized I was living in a totally new kind of family, and I wasn’t alone. My baby’s father is fifteen years older than me, and I have a non-biological sixteen year old I raised with my ex-girlfriend. My best guy friend is married to a guy and they’ve adopted a daughter from China. Another close friend has a husband and a girlfriend. Which is why I decided to ask eighteen writers to write about all the wacky, genius, technologically sophisticated ways they make family. 

But today as I was thinking about the new book, I thought about all the pieces I didn’t include because they were just a little shy of normal on my dial. Like the piece about the American medical student who married a woman he met in the Amazon who still doesn’t speak English–fifteen years later. (He doesn’t speak her native tongue, either.) And the story about the mom who made every member of her extended family members vote on whether her newborn should be circumcized.

What’s the difference between a new, groovy family configuration and one that’s problematic? I mean, it’s pretty newfangled to have eight babies via IVF, and I absolutely think Bill, Nikki, Margene, and Barb should marry Anna on Big Love, but where do we draw the line? Should we draw one at all? 

As Carrie Bradshaw might ask: 

When is one big happy family just one big dysfunctional mess, and how do you know the difference?

Rebecca Walker, author of One Big Happy Family, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week. Stay tuned.

Tagged with: