Dania Zein '21 - Real Talk on Family Structure

Picture the typical family. You probably imagine two parents and some children, correct? The parents are smiling; maybe one sibling is jokingly teasing the other. My family does not fit this stereotype.

Hi, I’m Dania, and I am presenting here today to help abolish the negative stigma that comes with the term ‘single parent’. I live with my mother and my dog in an apartment which I absolutely love. We are all very close.

Toward the beginning of the school year, I was sitting with a group of friends, just chatting. One of them casually mentioned how they and their dad had gone on a trip together, and how it was so much fun. I distinctly remember that I simply froze. Although I’d lived with just my mom for quite some time, this was the first time that it really hit me. My family was just different. For a few minutes, my mind went completely blank. I couldn’t think. I hadn’t ever had that experience. The experience of a father-daughter bonding trip. I’m not saying I was jealous, though. I’ve had plenty of fun experiences with my mom, as well as other relatives. It’s just that it had never really occurred to me that fathers did things with their daughters.

A month or two later, I overheard someone saying something along the lines of ‘I hate my mom!’ because she’d said that they couldn’t go out that Friday night. I couldn’t imagine the feeling. I couldn’t imagine hating someone who gave me so many opportunities and so much love. Living with my mother has taught me to appreciate tough love. I know that she wants only the best for me, and if it means that I can’t go to a party or go out alone, she means well. I think that since we are such a small family, we are much closer. I know that my mom knows what is best for me. It might not be ideal sometimes, but it always ends up helping me.

I will admit, sometimes I wish that I had a stereotypical ‘normal’ family. I’ll wish I had a sibling. But that’s ok. It’s not that I don’t love my family though. It’s really just one of those thoughts at the back of my head that comes up every now and then. Society has ingrained this ‘model family’ of two parents and children into everyone’s minds, even my own. But no family is perfect.

My family is not any less than a family with two parents and a few children. If I’m talking about family and I tell people that my mother is a single parent, and that she and I are a family, they always seem to wait for me to mention more people. A family does not have a strict definition; it isn’t just two parents and children. Just because a family does not meet your criteria for the typical structure does not make it less of a family. For me, family is a feeling, not a construct. The stereotype of a family is hurtful, especially to kids growing up without that structure.

My mother is not only a mom, but a friend and a role model. She has shaped me into the person I am today, and I couldn’t be more thankful for her. I’m proud to know that this woman is my mom. And that’s never going to change.

Thank you.
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