Your family doesn't have to look like the ones on TV


It's easy to watch a television show or movie and feel like everyone else's families are perfect all the time. I remember sitting on my living room carpet at eight years old, watching shows where dads wore suits to work and moms stayed home all day, cooking and cleaning. Even when I watched a movie where the parents weren't straight out of the '50s, the always-perfect people felt far from reality.

I was too young to write off these portrayals as outdated and unrealistic. Instead, I wondered why my family was so different from what was shown to be "normal". But as I got older and wiser, I realized that most shows, movies and books aren't reflections of a normal family. Most media, especially media aimed at children, tends to focus on the happier sides of growing up. To appeal to the largest audience, these works show the same type of family over and over—but that doesn't mean there's nothing that represents a different family. 


If you look hard enough, there are a ton of creative works portraying families with unique struggles and journeys. One of my favorites growing up was a book called Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. The book follows a young boy named Moose Flanagan as he and his family move to the infamous Alcatraz island during a time when the prison houses notorious gangsters like Al Capone.

While I obvi couldn't relate to being alive back then or living on Alcatraz, the family in the book appealed to me for different reasons. Moose has an older sister with autism. I have an older brother with autism, and while I knew of other autistic kids that went to his school, I didn't know anyone at my school who had a disabled sibling. Moose's occasional frustration with and persistent love for his sister Natalie mirrored my feelings for my own brother.


That book made me realize how important representation of atypical families is in children's media. As kids, we look to media to define our definition of what's normal, to give us something to relate to. So it's great to see creators focused on extending the definition of normal and giving all kids representation.

Maybe you're being raised by a single parent, or a step-parent, or one of your older siblings. The mainstream entertainment you watch and read might not be a mirror of your family situation, but that's totally okay. It doesn't make your family less than any other—as long as you still have the respect, care, and love that make up a family. There's bound to be a book, movie, or show out there that represents your sitch if you look hard enough. Or, if there's not, you can create it. The world needs *all* of our stories.

Title Image: Pexels/Julia M Cameron


by Bailey Bujnosek | 8/26/2020