Where do extended families fit?

I grew up without any contact with my extended family. I obviously knew that my parents had parents of their own, but that those relationships weren’t good and my brother and I didn’t know them. I have aunts and uncles I’ve never met, cousins I don’t know names of and whatever other forms of relatives that are somewhere out there in the world, and I’m okay with that. As an adult, I got to know my great uncle and meet a few relatives through that line, and while it’s been fun to see what my extended family is like, it hasn’t really changed my life or how I see myself.

Dean is much closer with his extended family. He grew up knowing his aunts and uncles, playing with his cousins and at least knowing his grandparents (although I’m not really too sure how close he was with them before they passed on). Of course moving overseas and then returning to South Africa changed those relationships, and it’s not as if he’ll pick up the phone to call his cousins, although he’s generally quite happy to see his various family members during special occasions. Since getting married, our relationship is “immediate” family, with everyone else sort of extended families, right? Can you tell that I’m confused by this? But ultimately, my question comes down to raising Harley, of course.

Ah, the joys of carrying around a kicking creature, anything that happens starts to feel linked back to her. For example, I don’t have a relationship with my father. Not gonna go into it here and now, but suffice it to say that she won’t grow up knowing her grandfather on my side. And I know that’s okay – I didn’t grow up knowing my grandparents and it was really fine, even on grandparents’ day at school. But I know she will ask questions, and those answers aren’t always the easiest. Why does she know her Omi (what my mom wants to be called) and not her grandpa?

Obviously there will be a way to be honest with her without passing the baggage onto her. And she will know Dean’s family as well, especially because they are local and all that. But it’s just weird for me. I don’t know what it’s like growing up with aunts and uncles. What role do they play? And how much involvement will be comfy? I’m so excited to see my mom play the same silly games with Harley as she did with me, it will be absolutely adorable to watch them singing itsy, bitsy spider or whatever else. And I’m sure Dean will get just as much of a kick watching his dad teach the little munchkin how to swim or play with model trains.

I suppose it’s like any adult who we choose to allow into Harley’s life, like our friends in general. The more people who can love her, the better. I’m happy for her to grow up surrounded by supportive and loving people. I guess I’m just curious about where everyone fits, and how much involvement is normal. Then again, nothing is normal when it comes to family – everyone’s family is crazy and weird, and we all just muddle our way through as best as we can. It’s just going to be a whole lot more interesting when she’s old enough to question why things are the way they are, and I will have to find honest ways to have it all make sense to her, even when it doesn’t always make sense to anyone else.


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