My family isn't the most traditional. Sure, we get together around the holidays and go camping in the summer, but it wasn't always like that for me. My family is actually my mom's boyfriend's family, and I wasn't always a part of it. My family has been friends with theirs for a while, and my mom and her boyfriend's ex-wife were pretty close, both pregnant at the same time. Our families would hang out together, especially my brother and I and their children, because we were around the same ages. I had never met anyone past their immediate family. This changed when I started to get invited to family events like the Cousin's Weekend and 4th of July weekend at my grandparent's cabin, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For a very long time, I didn't feel like I had a definitive place in their family, like I was just a visitor and didn't quite belong. I had trouble really connecting with the cousins that were my age, and didn't really know how I was supposed to act. For a while it was especially awkward because I thought my cousin Max hated me, and I'm pretty sure he thought the same of me. Three of my cousins are around my age: Griffin, Max, and Annika. Griffin and Max have a really solid brotherly relationship, and even though Annika and I were friends, it was weird sometimes when Annika couldn't come and it was just me and them.
I had been going to family events for years, but I still didn't feel like I belonged. I was there, but I was like a misshapen puzzle piece that didn't quite fit anywhere, lying off to the side. I'm not sure quite what happened, maybe it was me finally feeling comfortable with myself and who I was, but I started to coach myself. I told myself that I was just a person, and they were just people, and if I felt like calling them idiots then I could, because they were family. And now, when I refer to my grandparents or my cousins, I do it with the reassurance that I am truly part of their family, and that I love them all very much.