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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

What was it like growing up in a large family?

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

How is one to respond to this? How is one to answer a question that is so full, so large, so broad? Where do I start? This question is a question with questions that need to be asked before an answer can be had. How do I answer this question so many ask of me?

I love all of my siblings and I see myself as being so blessed to be able to call each one of them my brother or sister. Because I grew up in a family with nine other siblings I do not see the novelty a large family has to offer to those who ask me “What was it like growing up in a large family?” However, before we continue I must share with you my thoughts. I am a student for life, I am continually learning and thus, growing up. Even though I am a grown adult I am still part of my family and will continue being so, it is something that does not end simply because you are recognized as an adult or move so far as the other side of the world. Thus, I believe this question many ask of me is not the one that should be asked, but rather, “What is it like being a part of a large family?” With that being said I shall continue in response to this question.

When you think of growing up as part of a large family, you might first think about all the laundry, the copious amounts of dishes, the constant cooking, as if there is always a party (and it usually is around the dinner table). But the things that are often unseen by those outside the family is the trust, strength, healthy competition and constant support each sibling gives to another.

I personally grew up with five brothers and four sisters, so the family was even in terms of boy/girl ratio. However, we were not even when it came to boys against girls in the kickball games. We grew up playing kickball and as the family grew the field expanded. Easter is usually the kick off to the season. We were all homeschooled (and as I write this today four of my siblings are still in school, whilst the older ones have either finished their college degrees or are in the midst of earning them). Because we were homeschooled we turned to each other for support and assistance when we were struggling. We counseled each other and encouraged each other (or if it didn’t seem like a logical, or healthy idea, we discouraged each other).

We were and are to this day open and honest about our feelings, although there comes a time now and again where one or more disagree, although usually we find ways to resolve the issue. I do not intend to paint a beautiful canvas of love, joy and butterflies. Because there were bad times, there were and still are times where we struggle to see, hear, and acknowledge one another. There are indeed difficult times. Being a part of a large family is like anything else that needs to stay healthy, like your body for example, when one part of your body hurts or is damaged in some way, the rest of your body suffers, as it is compensating for it. Thus, when a sibling is sick or is not feeling heard the rest of the family suffers.

I love my sisters because I have a girl-friend to talk with, someone I can confide in and know my words are not going to pass through her lips. We all need that person we can count on that is not going to share the troubles we are going through to the world as we are working through them. There are also times we need to simply be heard and seen, acknowledged, it is a way of receiving love. We all need love, but we must also be willing to share the love and not share another's pain when they ask us not to share or expect us not to. If you are uncertain if they want you to be a sound board and offer this sort of love, just ask. I am often the one giving the love and it makes me feel so good inside that I can offer my ear, shoulder, and my heart to my sisters (and brothers too). As women we need that kind of support and we need to offer it to other women in return.

All of my brothers are younger than I, but each (even the youngest brother of twelve years) displays his protective authority to me and the other women (and girls) in the family. When a stranger speaks to us and they sense we are uncomfortable, they step in. When a wild critter is on the property and is considering attacking the animals, they step in. When we (the “girls”) started showing interest in a guy, they ask a million questions. When we are walking out and about in the town they catch the door and hold it for us. When I need assistance as small as putting up a shelf, and as big as helping me understand technology, they are there. My brothers are there. It is a wonderful treasure to have brothers that are confident in themselves and their abilities. Brothers who are not shy in displaying their masculinity. Especially in the world we live in today. Thus, mothers I encourage you to raise your boys in this way, confident in their abilities and masculinity. They are going (if it is God’s will) to make their ladies some very good husbands and fathers some day.

What is it like being a part of a large family? You ask. Darling, it is the greatest gift God could have bestowed one me. I am so honored and humbled to be a part of this family. I always have a friend to turn to. I have a critic, a cheerleader, an ear, a shoulder, someone to celebrate my wins with (no matter how small).

But what do your parents think? It’s got to be hard on them. Especially your mother. Actually mom rarely washes laundry. She doesn’t have to cook. The dishes are done according to a schedule. Every household chore is done by a child, there is a schedule, and they get done. Children have a natural instinct for cleaning, you only need to lean into it and teach them as they grow and one day they will be mature enough to do more difficult tasks, such as scrubbing the toilet or washing the drapes. My youngest sister has been hand scrubbing dishes since she was three years of age. I have been cooking since I was two. And we all have been folding laundry since we could put our own clothes on. As the children grow life gets easier because they all help each other out. There was even a time when mom didn’t have to do anything except check the test for school because we all helped each other out. Darling, being a mom is one of the greatest gifts God has to offer women. It is time we stop being shocked, surprised, or hurtful to women who have more than the average 2.5 children.

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