Growing Up in a Large Family
Roommate: "Hey wouldn't it be fun to go to New York for the weekend?"
Me: "Yeah! We could stay with one of my sisters in Brooklyn."
"I thought you said your sister lived in Texas."
"That's a different one."
"Wait, how many sisters do you have?"
"WHAT? Any brothers?"
"Are you serious?"
This is the typical response I get when I reveal to someone that there are ten kids in my family. When the shock subsides I am always bombarded with the same questions. "The same two parents? How big is your house? How many bedrooms are there? Are there any twins?" and more importantly, "How many bathrooms does your house have?" My ...view middle of the document...
Not even my own underwear was off limits. I had to periodically make the rounds of my sisters' and brothers' room to find things that had "disappeared" from my own. In my house no one ever expects to find something where they left it. The only way not to go insane searching for stuff all the time is to find some really good hiding spots. The biggest problem with having no real sense of ownership is when it's time to clean the house. It doesn't matter how many times my Dad yells, "Whose Lego's are these?" because no one will answer him. No one claims ownership, and no one claims responsibility.
The hardest thing to share was a bedroom. At one point I shared a room with my younger sister Zoë and my older sister Ada at the same time. It was a disaster! We fought constantly until Jesse went to college and Ada was able to move into the vacated room. As stressful as the experience was, it taught me how to live with all types of people. Now I am worried that maybe I am too used to living with other people. Coming from a place where everything belongs to everyone, I sometimes forget that other people are bothered by someone else using their belongings.
I wasn't too worried about the college roommate situation because I could not wait to move out of my house. Every large family's household is chaotic. Even though my siblings and I are all relatively calm, there was always something going on, and it was never going smoothly. There was always someone who needed to be driven to school, a music lesson, a job, or a game. For the 18 years I lived at home no one in my family was ever on time to anything. Even if I was going somewhere alone I would always hear, "Wait, can you drop Jacob off on your way?" or "I need something picked up at the store on your way home," before I was able to leave. However, with the chaos came a certain amount of freedom. If I left the house it could be hours before anyone noticed. As a teenager I enjoyed the lack of attention, but looking back I realize someone that age should probably still have some kind of supervision. The overall result of living in a chaotic household is the inability of all of us to be organized in any way.
A unique characteristic of a larger family is that the family is constantly evolving. In a small family everything is clearer. The role of each family member is very obvious: there is a mother, a father, an oldest child, a youngest child, a middle child, an aunt, a cousin. The overall personality and collective memory of the family also remains constant. In a large family like mine nothing is that stable. As the older children grow up and move out, the younger kids have to step up to the plate. I noticed a difference in my behavior when it was my turn to be the "oldest child." It was impossible to remain in my responsibility-free bliss as middle child while my parents were glaring at me to take some control. Not even the role of the parents is stable in a large family. It was necessary in my...