What makes a family has nothing to do with biology or adoption. A family is built out of love, loyalty, and commitment. Here are four things I learned from being a part of a family.

1. I am grateful for my childhood.

My life as a child was filled with love-filled memories. Both of my parents were focused, intentional, and dedicated in the day to day of raising my brother and me. Every day when my dad came home from work, he would wrestle and hug and toss me in the air still dirty and exhausted from his job. I can still feel that feeling of being cherished by my dad. We spent our time together as a family. We rode go-carts, baked cookies, and planted evergreen trees. These are now the evergreen trees that were decorated for Christmas by my son and nephew. We didn’t have cable television or fancy family vacations. What we had was each other. My childhood was about my brother and me. Our parents loved us, spent time with us, and always told us how lucky they were to be our parents.

It’s important to have a positive male influence.

Dads tend to get a bad rap. More often than not, they are presented as expendable. I was the first child.  As a little girl, he taught me all about planting trees, fixing cars, using tools, and took me prom dress shopping. My dad tried really hard to teach me to be an independent, self-sufficient woman in the world. He gave me confidence. I, to this day, wear minimal make-up because he told me I was pretty enough without it. I also had the privilege of seeing how he treated my mom. He loves her. He believes in her. That example led me to a man that loves and believes in me.

Having a sibling is a gift.

I have the privilege of having a baby brother. I was an overall bad big sister for the majority of our childhood. Bad in the usual ways: I hated to share. He could never hang out with my friends because he wasn’t cool enough. I basically ignored him as much as possible except when it came to how other people treated him poorly. There is no scorn greater than that of a big sister. Having a baby brother taught me about unconditional love and loyalty. It’s a blessing to have someone else on your team and knowing that it’s not you against the world. Someone has your back. My heart grew for the first time when my baby brother made me a big sister.

Traditions create lasting memories.

As a child or young adult, I didn’t fully appreciate the effort that went into creating traditions. I liked our traditions, sure. The magic of a tradition carried on over generations was lost on me until I became a mother. Yesterday, my son and I traveled to my mom’s to make Grandma Toma’s sugar cookies. My mom made these as a child with her grandma, I made them with mine, and now my son is making them. That’s five generations of sugar cookies. Taste wise, they’re probably not the best, but in the way it fills your heart to know that generations of your family have been making these for the holidays gives me validation that I am where I am supposed to be and that I have a place in my family, past and present.

As I sip my coffee, I can hear my husband count out oatmeal scoops for our son in the next room. My heart is full. I can hear their giggles. I can picture the breakfast scene in my mind. Without experiencing a beautiful childhood, I wouldn’t have the roadmap to create it for my son. I am raising my son with a grandfather, father, and uncle to look up to. Considering everything that makes a family, I have the privilege and responsibility to create a childhood for my son and a lifelong relationship that serves him.

It has nothing to do with adoption. What I have learned is a family is a family. It is built with love, loyalty, and little bits of magic that makes it last for generations.