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When Making Friends Makes An Extended Family

What defines a family? For J&J mom Marian, a group of friends that formed at her child’s daycare became an extended family with decades of memories, laughter and love.
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It was a beautiful day. The young, gorgeous couple was radiant as they joyfully faced the wedding guests as man and wife. If seemed like just yesterday that the groom was a wobbly toddler in the “Little Critters” room in daycare with my daughter and three other kids that were fondly named “the Brat Pack.” And now here he was, getting married.

The Brat Pack was born when five kids were infants in daycare and our families bonded – experiencing countless and sometimes hilarious adventures: kid and adult birthday celebrations, white water rafting, sleepovers, amusement and water park outings, superhero and circus shows, graduations, and now, the first wedding.

The Brat Pack began without a lot of planning or intention. I lingered at daycare drop off and pick-up to meet my daughter’s playmates and their parents. Sensing the fun and compatible ones, we invited them to dinner, then play dates, and then birthday parties. Soon, a little group had formed – one that I never dreamed would become my extended family.

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While we have much in common – we’re all working parents of about the same age and faith – we all bring diverse perspectives to the group and most importantly, a healthy respect for our differences. Our families would get together almost every other month and planned outings year round. When the kids started elementary school, they saw each other less often since they attended different schools – but parents and kids made a point of still getting together for birthdays and other social events. The parents at times even socialized without the kids! High school graduation was one big Brat Pack party – including other friends and relatives for one amazing joint celebration.

We’ve all experienced our share of challenging times that have included divorce, funerals and even one parent coming out as gay. There was unconditional support and love from all of the Brat Pack for the parents and kids. Whatever attracted us as friends held us together and strengthened our bonds like epoxy. One envious friend with young children once asked me how we made and kept such friends like the Brat Pack. The question made me stop and think because there was no plan or formula that we were executing to make it work. We’ve just been given an incredible gift.

Now that the kids are growing up and starting lives of their own, it’s become harder to sustain our “other family.” Like with any family, we have to plan ahead, allow for long lead times and make our time together a priority.

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We have become woven together by experiences, countless memories, understanding and appreciation and know there is much more to come. It has enriched our lives immensely. And as I watched the bride and groom walk down the aisle for the first time as husband and wife, I smiled, thinking that soon, there might be another generation of the Brat Pack for all of us to treasure, to laugh and cry with, to support and encourage. I’m so very grateful for my “other” extended family.

Our friends at TYLENOL® decided to put a modern spin on Norman Rockwell’s classic holiday painting Freedom From Want, to help illustrate how modern families come together to celebrate what matters most during the holidays. Watch here:

Marian Nakada has been part of the Johnson & Johnson family since 1999 when Centocor was acquired by J&J. She started her career at Centocor in 1990 when her daughter, Siva, one of the Brat Pack was born.. Siva and the rest of the Brat Pack have grown up and been out of college for 2 years now and Marian has “grown up” and graduated from bench scientist to corporate venture as a member of the Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation.

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