I know some people who aren't particularly pleased with their families. Even through the first year or two of college, I always had extreme difficulty understanding people who would talk about how much they disliked their parents, siblings, etc. The way I was raised with the family I had, it just sort of blew my mind. And, in some ways, it still does!
I'm not going to pretend that I've always gotten on smashingly with my family. I grew up with 4 older brothers who would take time to torture their little sister from time to time. I went through my "disaffected youth" phase where I was semi-regularly at odds with each of my parents in turn. I was kind of a bitch to them on occasion and I still feel guilt over that some days. I'm also not going to pretend that they were perfect always. As any parent could tell you, it's a learning experience. You'll never be the perfect parent all the time, and you'll never do everything right in the eyes of your child (or other people, for that matter).
While it wasn't always a smooth road, I still had the benefit of having a loving immediate family and a large extended family who liked each other enough to get together a few times a year.
If you're anything like most of the people I've ever known, you may need to take a minute to process that last statement. Yes, my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) like each other. And what's more, we make a point to spend time with each other on a regular basis. Ever since I was but a wee bairn, my family would get together each year for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Family Camp (our annual camping trip with all the extended family and some family friends).
When it comes down to it, when I think of what I want for myself in a relationship and for my future (nonexistent) kids, all I have to do is think about my family and they way I was raised.
I want what my grandparents have - they've been together for over 60 years and I can still see the love in their eyes when they look at or even talk about each other. They are a perfectly suited couple that I have always looked up to, and likely always will.
I want to raise my kids around the extended family. I don't want them just sort of knowing that they have cousins, but not know them. I don't want them thinking the concept of spending a weekend with family is weird or just not fun. Because it's amazing and most of my best memories growing up stem from my family and these kinds of gatherings.
Finally, let's talk about my brothers. To be perfectly frank, we seriously all have not always enjoyed each other's company. In fact, through many of our formative years, we all quite despised one another. I guess that's just the way it happens when there are 5 kids born across a span of 5 years (way to go, Mom). In any case, I never really felt "close" to any of my brothers until they started going off to college, and even more so when I joined the ranks of college students myself.
We all still lived in different areas of the country (Texas, Arkansas, California, and eventually Arizona), so I didn't see them too regularly, but that's when we began calling each other or emailing with at least semi-regularity.
A few years later, I've got a brother in Texas, some in Arizona, one in China, and one local. I feel like I am in at least decent contact with each of them and even spent 2 weeks travelling around China with the one living there. I also used to be roommates with the brother living in town.
It seems just yesterday my brothers and I were arguing over who got to play with which Ninja Turtles toy next. Now, I feel like I can call each of my brothers friends of mine, and that's a pretty fantastic feeling.