Growth Spurts: The Big Family
As the second of five children, I grew up in a big family. For the most part, I enjoyed having so many of us in the house, but there were definitely some challenges, too. Now I have five children of my own, which feels somewhat normal. I still see lots of great benefits to being part of a large family, although those familiar challenges do continue to make themselves known. But that’s with every family; there are great things and difficult things. In the case of the big family, I decided to ask my children for their thoughts on what it’s like, and here is what we came up with.
When you’re part of a big family, there is pretty much always something to do or somewhere to go. Boredom is rare. Even if each child only has one extracurricular activity at a time, that’s still a lot of extra activities to keep up with. One of the downsides of having lots of activities is that there is a good chance that not everyone in the family will be able to see you in every one of your own games or performances.
Built-in playmates are a nice advantage in a large family. There is usually an ample amount of players for board games, and there is rarely a lack of competitiveness, which keeps things, um… lively. If the kids have similar interests, they can play all kinds of things together for long stretches of time. If they don’t have similar interests… well, they get to work on their negotiating and cooperating skills.
Lack of personal space can also be a trying part of being in a big family. Often, bedrooms have to be shared. Bathrooms definitely have to be shared. Any kind of space in the family vehicles is precious, as is space around the dinner table. And how about space to talk?! It can be hard to get a word in edgewise sometimes. And even harder to try to have any kind of private conversation. The good news is that there’s pretty much always someone you can talk to. Even if you’re fighting with one sibling, you can find another to hang out with. And there’s usually someone available to give – or receive – a hug.
Whether you want to or not, you will learn to share in a big family. There is no other option. Food, clothing, toys, electronics, furniture, appliances… all shared. On the other hand, though, you also get to share chores and responsibilities, which could mean at least a little less work for the individual. The arts of sharing and taking turns are learned and cultivated every single day in the homes of large families, which is great practice for life outside of the home.
It’s not always easy to share, though. The most difficult things to share are probably people – the parents. “Attention distribution”, as one of my sons calls it, can be very challenging for us parents. There are some things we can do to make it better, but in general, that’s just one of those hard parts of big families.
There are so many things to be said for having a big family. One of the best things, though, is something you are actually glad to share: stories, experiences, memories, and love.