That’s the question Houstonia’s editorial team found itself asking over and over in preparation for our family guide. It’s not an easy one to answer. The family as we know it today is a shapeshifter, the product of at least two forces that are themselves in constant motion—society’s changing attitudes and an ever-unpredictable economic climate.

In a world where children are raised by moms and dads, yes, but also grandparents, single parents, gay parents, and more, and where those seeking an extended family network can find it at reunions, yes, but also at support groups, churches, and around water coolers—understanding just who is and who isn’t a member of one’s family is harder than ever, so much so that maybe the distinction doesn’t even matter anymore.

In such a climate, it seemed prudent to employ the broadest possible definition of family, which is to say not just parents and children, but the entire extended clan, not just those united by common blood but a common bond as well. After all, while each of us will always be part of the larger human family, the various subdivisions offered to us are increasingly a matter of choice. Some will see this as evidence that the family is falling apart, others that it is under siege, still others that it is obsolete. From where we stand, however, the family is now and always will be a vital institution, if only because the needs that underlie it—stability and unconditional love—remain themselves as vital as ever. The construction bends but the loving goes on. —Scott Vogel

In This Feature:

Flora, Fauna, Family

Outdoor activities that’ll make the whole family want to drop their iPads and get out of the house.

08/03/2014 By Chris Abshire

Houston’s Best Parks Outside the Loop

Who says there’s nothing to do outside the Loop?

08/03/2014 By John Lomax and Katharine Shilcutt

Houston’s Best Spraygrounds

Far from a fad, the splash pad (or “sprayground”) is here to stay—and there are dozens to choose from.

08/03/2014 By John Lomax

Bargain Brood: Family Affairs on the Cheap

Think low-cost family fun is an oxymoron? Come on, this is Houston we’re talking about!

08/03/2014 By Peter Holley

The Grandest Parents: a Spirited Guide to Overindulgence

Finally—finally!—you have a grandchild or two to spoil rotten. Here’s where to start.

08/03/2014 By Catherine Matusow

How to Be the World’s Best Aunt

Houstonia editor Cathy Matusow shares her secrets.

08/03/2014 By Catherine Matusow

A Growing Family’s Restaurant Guide

Where to take your brood out to eat, from tots to tweens

08/03/2014 By Katharine Shilcutt

Festivals for Every Member of Every Sort of Family

Houston has no shortage of things to do this summer, even for the pickiest of folks.

08/03/2014 By Michael Hardy

The Ultimate Guide to a Houston Family Reunion

Get your get-together together.

08/03/2014 By John Lomax and Katharine Shilcutt

Avoiding Dinner Drama with Tots in Tow

Tips for parents (and non-parents) to keep the kid drama at bay when dining out with little ones.

08/26/2014 By Elise Rambaud Marrion

7 Great Small Houston Parks

Sometimes, you want to relax with the family away from the maddening crowd.

08/03/2014 By John Lomax