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by Carole Woudenberg

What is a family? Is it bound together by love, obligation, or even habit?

I was brought up in the era of a traditional idea of family: mostly, I thought of parents and their children. Only one of my friends had divorced parents. I never even heard of a step-family, unless one parent died. And now, I have a daughter Valerie whose family includes her two biological children, two step children, and her lesbian partner. (It also extends to her ex-husband and his 2 young children with his second wife.)

So what is a family? Does this definitely "nontraditional" family work? Absolutely. Don't get the wrong impression, they are not "The Brady Bunch. They have their share of stress in their life. Both women were married and had two children before they met and fell in love. Both women's ex-husbands are co-partners in the raising of the children. That means that the children spend half the week with their fathers, and half the week with their mothers. Their schedules overlap, but not totally. Does this sound complicated? It sure does. However, the kids don't seem to have a problem with it.

My grandchildren, Nathan and Michaela , ages 11 and 6, have two step siblings when they are with their mom, (not to mention a golden retriever) and a half brother and half sister when they are with their father. My daughter and her partner bought a house very close to the homes of their ex-husbands so there is no traveling for the children to do. Whew! In most ways, I think they are very lucky kids. They have a mother and a father who love them, lots of family who love them, and they live in a community that seems to be open minded.

What can I say? My husband and I adore our grandchildren. They are great kids - bright, beautiful (of course!), and seem to be very well adjusted. Who knows what lies ahead for them - but they are getting the tools they will need to cope in this world.

At this time of year (indeed all the throughout the year), I give thanks to my daughter and her partner and their children. They are a family filled with love, acceptance, strength and joy. To me, the heart of our family is love.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.