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14 Writers, 1 Prompt: What’s Your Definition of Family?

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My father cuts fruits for us every day, without fail. At 9pm we munch on slices of pear and watch Japanese news because it’s the only channel worth watching anymore. The cat ignores me yet again to lie down in front of the TV. Sometimes my mother makes a disparaging comment about Japanese fashion being weird, but that’s fine. It’s still fun to watch.

This is what family is to me, I guess. An uncomfortably hot evening spent in silence again and again. No grand gestures, just plain old routine. That’s what families are built on, anyway. A routine that repeats and repeats and before you know it, a quiet love is forged.

– Anonymous

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A family is made of ink. Ink that is unwilling to smudge even when fingers brush over them tirelessly. Ink that first settles itself into the pages of picture books, in the form of cats and dogs. As you grow older, the cartoon animals morph into flowers, and into stars and planets, and into Chinese characters, eager to teach. Occasionally, the pages would be empty, and remain empty for days, except for a single wine stain at the corner of a page. Occasionally, the words are angry scrawls, taking up half a page and goes on and on until your vision blurs. Occasionally, there will be childish hand-drawn castles and queens on the pages, because somehow big sister is capable of changing the world.

The ink slowly makes its way onto your body. It hurts when it does, all those tiny metal needles, but you really want that big, pretty castle and its queen on your skin, because you are capable of changing the world. You really want those flowers you received once upon a time, because you also learnt about the Victorian Flower Language, and how those yellow cinquefoils mean ‘beloved daughter’ and you wish to immortalise that. You really want those stars to fill out the blankness of your skin, so you could be a sky where an Aries and a Sagittarius could exist together at once, because your brothers couldn’t be pried apart even with a crowbar. And all those pages that still write themselves, understood. A family is made of ink.

– Anonymous

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Family is a sense of belonging and trust when you surround yourself with the right people. To quote the ever so cheesy line from Lilo and Stitch, ‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.’ As cliche as it might sound, I think that this line describes family fairly accurately.

To many, family is a genetically similar bunch you’re related to, who share the same blood and so on. However, I define family as people you grow with, who you confide in when you feel emotionally down, and most importantly, the ones who  are there for you not just at your peaks, but during your lows as well. To me, when I’m around people whom I call family, every ounce of happiness and comfort becomes amplified in the best way. They make me feel like the downs in life are temporary and make the highs last so much longer. Family gives meaning to my existence and nurtures me to become a better listener and caregiver not just to others, but to myself too.  

– Joyce Chin

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Sometimes bonded by blood, but sometimes not.

The warm voices that greet me the moment the front door unlocks.

Those looked-forward-to fancy birthday dinners and celebratory splurges,

Shopping trips and homemade Sunday-morning breakfasts.

Family is shouting matches and cold wars,

Those days of which I absolutely abhor.

Arguing about who gets to ride shotgun,

And sulking after someone else won.

Family is made of arms that hold you together when you feel like shattering,

Those who see you at your most unflattering.

Gentle hands that brush away your tears.

Hands that clutch yours, through all the fears.

A ‘ping’ from an incoming text that helps you get through the day.

With family, I can find my way.

– Anonymous

They say blood runs thicker than water, but I believe that a family doesn’t really have to consist of blood. Sometimes, your own family is a mere social construct of what people think and associate families with. Sometimes, your “real” family makes you feel insignificant, like you don’t belong or you feel left out. We don’t have to be literally related to be considered family. For me, family is a group of people you truly belong with. People who are willing to set differences aside and let you thrive among common interests. It’s a union of sorts. People can find a family anywhere – among friends, strangers who could be your new friends, maybe their own relatives, their pets, their lover, their colleagues etc. As long as that group of people makes you feel like you’re meant to be there, with them, then they’re family. A true one, actually.

– Natasha

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It’s effortless connection,

The selfless desideratum to watch another succeed,

It’s unconditional,

The laziest of all bonds,

But also, the strongest.

– Nimue

At a very young age, i had realised that family isn’t only a bond forged by blood. Family isn’t just your parents and your siblings. Family branches out further than that. Family is anyone who stays by your side. To me, family is anyone who’s there when your world comes crashing down. Family is anyone who understands your pain when no one else seems to notice a thing. I recently came across a quote, “ A stranger is family who you haven’t met yet.” That quote resonated with me. That quote made me realise that actions truly speak louder than words and anyone who is willing to make an effort to be there for you when you need it the most, is family.

Families come in all shapes and sizes – that’s the beauty of it. You’ll know that you’ve found your family when they love you for who you are, regardless of your faults and shortcomings. A dear friend, a beloved pet, your neighbour even – anyone who gives you a sense of belonging and peace, is family.

– Nabilah Hassan

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A family to me is a group of people who are always there for each other and willing to support or lend a helping hand even in the toughest of times. It doesn’t necessarily have to be people you’re related to, there just has be that love and inseparability within the group, and the sense of togetherness that unites everyone in it.

– Alex

Family doesn’t always have to be from the same line of blood as you are. Family is people who you share a sense of belonging with, whom you are comfortable with. Family are the people who tell you you’re wrong when you’ve done a mistake but also tell you that it’s okay to make those mistakes. They remind you of who you truly are. It’s important to have family not just at home but among your friends and others around you. It reminds you that you are needed and you have a place in this world when you feel like you don’t.


Art by James R. Eads

I would argue that just as it is within human nature to nurture, build and love, it is also within our nature to destroy and hurt. As imperfect beings, we cannot escape from the human condition which is to be loved and to express it; to feel pain and to inflict it.

There’s something to be said for prerequisites of a healthy good to bad ratio. (I wouldn’t use the term “no matter what” because abuse and manipulation exist.) It’s just a matter of balances and compromises. But at the end of the day, family are those who you can be the most human around.

– Fajar

By Studio Ghibli

She stands on a ledge,

Minutes before her mighty fall,

The end to all suffering,

The thought which has been conquering every waking moment.

Today is a good day to die,

She closes her eyes,

A sharp breath,


She walks away, the other direction,

Back home now child,

Your mother is waiting for you,

She’s got hot curry for supper and a warm hug to give

Family is what she goes back to

On the worst of days

The darkest of nights

Even with soulless eyes.

– Yumitra K

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The actual definition of family is often the people who are related to you by blood – parents, siblings, anyone born bearing the family name. It can even be your aunts and uncles or cousins. Family is often the group of people we originate from. Or well that’s the case for those who have immediate family. What about orphans? Those who often do not know who their parents are? For them, family would be their caretaker in the orphanage or other orphans they treat like siblings or friends. Family for us sometimes can also be our best friend and our best friend’s family. So what exactly is the definition of family if its categories widen with every new prospect? In my own words, family is where a person feels like they’re home. A group of people who make you feel comfortable and safe, who would go to any extent to save you from a crisis and worry the most about you… they are family. Care and love come naturally from the people who treat you like family. It can be your mother, sibling or friend. Family does not narrow down to just blood-related members, at least according to me. It is anybody who would treat us like their own and who are there when we need them. Family is a foundation for someone to grow from. A foundation if shaken, impacts the whole life of a person.

– Mugilaa Selvaraja

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A family is a nest. A nest where we humans are born, a nest where we are reared, a nest of vulnerability. Fully seen and fully known by all who share the same nest. There is nothing to hide. A place where we can be our truest selves with no fear and no shame.

A family is also a training ground where our potential is incubated and given the room to explode. A ground where we can trust their applause because we have heard their true criticism. A place where we can grow to be the best versions of ourselves.

– Christine Sitambuli

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Family love knows no bounds, it transcends the metaphysical beliefs of the universe, and acts as a binding force that leverages the whole of humanity. Just like how a tree is rooted down to the ground, you are rooted to your origins – your family; even if you lose your way, you’ll find your way back home, to where one is protected, nourished, loved. When you have family, you have everything.

– Jessie Gan