Families with lots of kids have unique experiences that set them apart.
Families with many children are less and less common, and these days they’re often seen as a curiosity or simply a bad idea. Who in their right mind would want to embark on such a chaotic adventure? Who can afford it? Nevertheless, many of us grew up in big families, and we have certain common experiences which, for better or for worse, distinguish us from those who grew up with just one or two siblings.
Here are some of the experiences that set apart those who grew up in, or currently belong to,the “tribe” of large families:
You never wear new clothes …
… unless you’re the oldest sibling. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about school uniforms, swimsuits, jeans, or formal suits or dresses; in your family, items of clothing pass through 3 or 4 hands, easily. If you’re one of the younger siblings, you’ve surely had to use mended hand-me-downs—unless maybe you were lucky and got something new because an item of clothing your older brothers or sisters used was so worn, torn, or frayed there was no way to save it.
You’re an expert in treaties and alliances.
In large families, there’s a delicate balance of agreements and arrangements. One of your brothers is your “partner in crime” when you get into mischief; another one plays sports with you. One sibling makes you laugh; another makes you cry. You share a room with one, and a closet with a different one. This delicate balance gets built up over time, and teaches you that in life, whatever differences you may have with someone, there’s always something you can share.
Leaving the house is a whole odyssey.
Have you ever tried to go to a restaurant and ask for a table for 12? If you come from a large family, you’ve experienced it many times, and you know it’s not easy. A reservation is practically a must. Vacation trips are even more difficult; coordinating so many people to follow just one plan can take a lot of time … although that family time is so fun and enriching and the final photos look so great that it’s totally worth the effort.
Nothing is entirely yours.
Forget having your own computer, tablet, or even a calculator for your exclusive use. When you’re part of a large family, you know that, even if that object is nominally “yours,” in practice you’re going to have to share it all the time. Not to mention the gifts given to all of you to share—the ones that don’t even have a nominal owner, but which are part of all the siblings’ daily lives.
Your family has more traditions than a small country.
The only way to keep family plans from becoming completely chaotic is to convert them into “traditions.” So hello to Game Night, Sunday Brunch, and Family Day, to name just some of the ways parents find to spend family time together in an organized way in which everyone can participate.
You’re never completely alone.
We could say that this is the best part of being a member of a large family. Although there’s always noise and some degree of disorder, you know you will always have someone beside you—whether to console you, keep you company, or bother you—and that always fills your heart.
Why I ended up with too many children