By Michelle Ciaramella – 2019, This We Belive 3rd Place Essay Winner
Family has a different meaning to each person who hears the word. Family is not only blood, it is a bond. I believe that family is made up of the people we choose to support us and love us no matter what. Family is the unbreakable bond and endless laughter that we share. When I was young I had one brother and my parents had recently been through a divorce. At the time I thought my world was ending and nothing else mattered to me.
Nine years ago, all of that changed. My mom met her current boyfriend (soon-to-be husband) in 2010. As a kid, I thought that I could never accept this man as my dad. Along with this news my mother also told me he had two kids, who at the time were two and three years old. The age difference and the thought of sharing everything was appalling to me. I didn’t give the three of them the time of day.
Flash forward three years and my youngest brother is born. Never did I think that a baby, crying and screaming, would in any way HELP our situation. But here is where I realized that I was wrong. Being the oldest, I was responsible for babysitting all four of them. Through countless games of Monopoly and hide and seek, we formed a bond. I finally stopped seeing the kids as “my mom’s boyfriend’s kids.” I stopped seeing them as annoying or as a burden. I finally saw them for what they are; they are my siblings.
When I was thirteen, I faced the worst challenge in my family life yet. I found out who my real father is and that my dad didn’t want to deal with me anymore and “since I wasn’t his, he didn’t want to fight for me in the divorce.” This led me to blame myself and I felt as though I was worthless. If it wasn’t for my stepdad and siblings, I would probably still feel that way. However, I learned quickly that they DID want to be in my life and my stepdad even saw me as his own. He said this to me even after my awful attitude towards him and countless times telling him that he would never be my dad.
It wasn’t until two years ago that I started to build a better relationship with my stepfather. As I made my way through high school, he came to every softball game, chorus concert, and award ceremony. He fully supported me in every decision that I made and became somebody whom I could trust with anything. I would not have a trusting, friendly, and supportive relationship with him if I had not chosen to set aside my anger. When I finally opened up to him is when I realized we are a family. These are the people that will forever stand by me. I wouldn’t trade the world for the bond that I have with my family today.
I find it funny that only nine years ago I refused to accept this truth. Today, my sister cries at the thought of me going off to college, and my dad screamed and cheered me on as I walked across the stage at graduation. The person I am today has been completely shaped by the wonderful people that make up my “family.” Every time I think that I am alone or that I am struggling, I can look back and see my family is right there, cheering me on. Through the hatred and the hardships, love prevailed and my family bonded like glue. Life may never be easy, but I am confident that I’m not facing it alone.