“This is my family. I found it all on my own. It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.” Stitch says this towards the end of Lilo and Stitch and I’ve got to admit, it makes me cry whenever I watch it.
Some people are lucky enough to be born into a family that looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. Grandparents and parents and siblings all gathered around and supportive of each other through life’s ups and downs.
Many of us still have that picture when we think of family, even if statistics point towards more blended families, single parent families, or other configurations altogether. The important thing that makes a family has less to do with legal bonds or blood bonds and more to do with the emotions present in that Norman Rockwell painting: love and support.
That’s why the idea of found families, like Stitch’s, is so important. A family might consist of two parents and a set of siblings, or it might be one person, their roommate, their roommate’s boyfriend, and the three friends that come over every Friday night.
Your family might be the people you went to high school with, or the people you met on a forum dedicated to pet cockatiels. You might have a work family, a church family, a stepfamily, in-laws and extended family, or you might have only a few people you consider family. You get to decide who is in your found family.
Sometimes people have a found family in addition to a related family, other times instead of a related family, either because the family they were born to is gone or was not a healthy family to be part of. Healthy families aren’t shown in media that often – they aren’t very entertaining, they don’t make for good drama or comedy, and it can be hard to find role models if your own family can’t provide that.
For all that the Addams family subverts most of our expectations, their family is an active and loving one. The parents support the children and love each other; the children are taught the family values by their parents.
The Weasley’s in Harry Potter are another example of a good family. Though poor, their children are cared for and well loved. Though Mrs. Weasley may get angry, it’s often misplaced worry, and none of the children have any doubt that their friends will be just as welcome at the dinner table as they are.
But found families, like Stitch’s, make up the majority of fiction. And I think, when it comes down to it, the majority of the world. Because even when we have our nuclear family, we tend to bring in friends who are like brothers or like sisters to us. We refer to “mom-friends” who take care of us like a mom would in times of trouble. We expand our families.
So, whether your family looks like Norman Rockwell, like the Weasleys, or like Lilo and Stitch, remember it’s good. Yeah, still good.
Maria Laquerre is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in addressing trauma with clients of all ages. Maria has practiced therapy in New Mexico since her return in 2008. Maria's current passion is supporting therapists in doing their best clinical work, which she pursues through offering supervision, consultation and trainings. Maria enjoys spending time with her family, watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, discussing the psychology of pop culture and loves a good book!