“All twelve of us live in Michigan so there is security in knowing that there is always someone around and will probably be for most of my life as I am a middle child,” my mom said as she shared with me what it is like to have a family with eleven brothers and sisters. As stated by Katherine Snow Smith in the Neighborhood Times, in 2004 there were only 1. 6 million families that included six or more children as opposed to the 29 million families that consisted of two children. I come from one of those families that only consist of two children; it’s just my dad, mom, older sister and me.
On the other hand my mom, Linda Newcom, has a family that consists of fourteen people! I have always been curious to know what it was like to grow up in that big of a family so I decided to talk to my mom about all of the good and bad qualities of a family bigger than four. “You always have friends! ” my mom responded the moment I asked what the best thing was about having a large family, “If I need someone to talk to I always have someone who will listen. I can ask for advice or give advice without having to worry what the other person is thinking because they are family and they will generally accept you for who you are” (Newcom).
This is one thing that would be nice to have while growing up; my only sister is five years older than I so we were never close as kids. Although we got along, we never had anything in common because of the age difference. So talking about things and giving advice was difficult between us. Although a big family would be very comforting my mom also told me about the not so rewarding traits of a big family. “Sometimes when there is family crisis there are so many people with different opinions and ideas” (Newcom). My mother explained that there are so many people concerned and so many different views that it is hard to make one family decision.
I can’t imagine how hard it is to get fourteen people to agree on one thing. Another negative issue with having a large family was the budget. “As a child we did not have as much as some other kids. Clothes usually were always hand-me-downs. That was alright when I was little and did not really know any better but as I got older and started junior high school it was sometimes embarrassing. ” My mom went to a Catholic school while she was younger so the uniforms took care of the clothing problem but my mom and her siblings went to public schools for junior high and high school.
It would be hard for any teenager growing up to never have new clothes, or even clothes of their own. But with that many people in the family, there was a variety of clothes and toys for everyone to share. “When we were small, at Christmas there were plenty of toys to play with since we all shared and because there were so many kids, there were plenty of toys and games” (Newcom). My sister and I enjoy sharing all of our clothes and belongings now that we are older but as kids it was tough. I always took advantage of all of the new things I’ve been given all of my life.
After this interview with my mother a new appreciation for the things I own has been established. “When you come from a big family you just get used to sharing everything and do not think much about it” (Newcom). Since there was a lot of sharing, privacy was difficult. “When we were little we only had a three or four bedroom house and one bathroom. So as far as privacy goes there was not a lot” (Newcom). My mother explained that as kids not only did they have to share rooms but they even had to take baths together to save time and money.
When we got older we moved into a five-bedroom home with three bathrooms. It got much easier then and we also were in the suburbs as opposed to the country so life started to change. Still we shared the bathrooms many times and always shared a bedroom” (Newcom). Since they moved to the suburbs there were more places for everyone to go therefore there was more opportunity to get some privacy at home. “After school I would go to my room, close the door and pretend I was a teacher. It was nice to be able to play and do things by myself once in a while” (Newcom).
Since I only have one sister it is easy to find time apart from another so there is never much competition or arguing in our home. It is easy for us to get equal attention and to resolve conflict between only two people. I assumed in a large family there would be a lot of competition and arguing between all of the siblings’ different opinions, but my mother clarified that there was not any more arguing in her family than there is in any other small family: As kids I don’t recall a lot of arguing. We had a lot of fun and that is all that stands out.
But as we got older my brothers would be mean to me and act like I was not in the room with them when we were all talking. Me and my sister would fight when we were teenagers over washing and drying dishes. We did not have a dishwasher for a lot of years and there were a lot of dishes to do. But for the most part we got along and always supported each other. We only had one TV and very few stations so we all sat around and watched the same thing together in the evening. There was no arguing about TV because of that. (Newcom) My older sister found it entertaining to pick on me sometimes too.
We had our days when we would argue and fight just like my mother and her family. We were also very caring for each other and my sister often looked out for me. It was probably much easier for our little family to get along than for my mothers family that consists of so many different personalities. Both of our families were always very close while growing up and have remained close today. “I was closer to my brothers more back then, than I am now and much closer to my sisters as an adult. I just have more reasons to pick up the phone and talk to my sisters rather than my brothers.
The brothers in the family are closer to each other than they are to us girls as well” (Newcom). I am much closer to my sister now that we are older. I can relate to my mother when she says she and her sisters have a lot to talk about now. My mom told me how news spreads very quickly with so many people in the family. So even if relationships aren’t as close as others everyone knows how everyone is doing. Even though I am three hours away from our home and my sister is all the way in Arizona, it is not hard for my family and me to keep in touch.
We talk quite a bit over the phone and my sister and I visit our parents as much as possible. We also plan to settle down somewhere in the same area once school is over for my sister and me. Talking about how close both of our families are got me thinking about the many wonderful experiences my family and I have had together. I asked my mom to tell me about a time when her entire family was together that stuck out in her mind the most: I loved the family vacation in Alpena, Michigan when we would rent a couple of cabins on the lake and go fishing, swimming and cook out.
We would catch fish and then watch my dad or brothers fillet the fish every night. We always begged them to cut open the stomachs so we could see what the fish had eaten that day. I loved sitting on the lake and fishing with my brothers. They always baited my hook for me. (Newcom) My mom enjoyed the peace and quiet. She told me how summer vacations were simple but they were always a great time. She had no luxuries such as televisions or radios when they went to Alpena but they had each other, which was all they needed to have a good time.
Sometimes other relatives met with us there and sometimes friends went too. After our two weeks of vacation were over the people who owned the cabins would have all the kids go around and clean up papers or anything else that got messed up and then we would pile into their pick-up truck and go down to the corner store and they would buy us an ice cream. (Newcom) Vacations were often cheap and easily planned. According to Bolster, “The perfect formula for happy travels: Keep is simple. ” A vacation is really a time for families to bond. That is exactly what my mom and her family would do.
With my small family, going up north is not quite as eventful; a vacation was more so a time to just relax. My mom also reminisced about how she and her siblings would always put plays together. There were so many people in her family and so many friends, that there was always a person to play every part in the play. “We had neighbors that had big families too so it was a lot of fun” (Newcom). My mom learned a lot from living in such a large family, “I think that I am more adjusted than other people because of the large family. It has made me more rounded.
You certainly need to adapt to many things. Not everything is going to go your way and I was able to learn this early in life unlike some people from small families” (Newcom). Having a large family is very different, in some aspects, from having a small family such as mine. I am very glad I was able to do this interview with my mother because now I know what it is like to have more than one sibling, or in my mom’s case, eleven. It would have been an incredible experience having such a large family, but I very much love and appreciate my small, close family. I would never change anything about it.