I grew up as the oldest of 5 children (all girls). When I meet someone else who grew up in a big family, we have an instant connection. There are certain values you adopt and, let’s be honest, certain “survival” instincts that are built into you when you grow up in a big family.
You know you grew up in a big family if….
1) Bacon was treated like gold
I remember being a child and waking up on Saturday mornings to birds chirping, sunlight streaming in my window, and the smell of breakfast being made. To me this meant one thing: the bacon war was on.
In a family of seven, certain “family size” portions did not go a long way. We each would get one piece of bacon to savor with our scrambled eggs. Any remaining pieces were for the fastest and strongest of siblings to battle over.
Once, my younger sister dove across the table with a fork in her hard to ward off any competitors from taking the last piece of bacon.
2) You all rocked matching mom-given haircuts
Maybe my mom wanted to save time and money, or maybe she really, truly loved cutting 5 kids’ hair. Either way, my mom was our self-appointed hair stylist.
She specialized in short bobs with ruler-straight bangs that landed promptly in the middle of the forehead. You could pick the five of us out of a line up of 500 kids by our classic, clone-like family hairstyle.
3) Solo introductions are still awkward
This is word-for-word how we were introduced as children:
“This is Sandy and Paul’s five daughters.” We would all just giggle as we received the typical “Oh my, 5 girls!” No one bothered to mention our names, and we preferred that.
Now that we are adults and away from our “herd”, introductions are surprisingly awkward for all of us. When I am introduced to someone, I stare uncomfortably at them as they outreach their hand to me. I have to remind myself that it is normal to speak and say my name, as I am no longer protected by my wolf pack of siblings.
4) You answer to any of your siblings’ names
I got so used to being called different names that, to this day, if I hear any of my sisters names I will automatically answer to it. Heck, I will even answer to old family dog’s name, too.
As a kid, a neighbor called me by my sister’s name, Rachel, for 2 years. When someone finally told her that my name was not Rachel, she looked at me like I had a screw loose for not correcting her even once during those 2 years.
5) Breaking the “Save My Seat” oath was punishable by law
In our house, we enforced a very strict “save my seat” rule. The claim to the seat of choice (which was usually the recliner in front of the television), would expire after each television show. If you were gone longer than that, you forfeited your rights to the claim. However, if you unfairly stole someone’s claimed chair, then you better be prepared for a brawl.
I still have this principle built in me today. If someone is sitting in a park bench that I was sat in within that 30 minute period, I glare at them shaking my head and wondering who taught them such poor values.
6) Earning the privilege of riding “shotgun” was only for the sharpest children
You would have thought riding in the front seat of our minivan was equivalent to winning the lottery, based on how we fought over it.
Things got a little out of hand in our house with calling “shotgun” to ride in the front seat of the car. It became a free for all, where we would call shotgun for events a week out: “I get shotgun when we go to soccer practice next week!” The schedule became so intense that my mom had to create and enforce a family 24-hour shotgun rule. That meant that you could only call “riding shotgun” within 24 hours before said car ride.
7) You shared your friends with your siblings
Without a doubt, the minute I had a friend over I would hear my mom shout, “Let your sisters play with you!”.
Sometimes it was a little embarrassing- like when I had a new friend over in middle school and my 4 year old sister would follow us around with an armful of Barbies. However, it was always a fun party at our house and we eventually loved sharing our friends.
8) You are all too familiar with weird family pranks
In a big family, prior to the technology error, you had to use your imagination to stay occupied. What better way to keep busy, than to plan elaborate pranks and gang up on other siblings.
I remember playing a cute game of “hair saloon” with my sisters. A bunch of us convinced our younger sister that we were going to spend 15 minutes fixing her hair. We spent that entire time secretly spitting on her head.
Admitting out-loud that we did that both makes me feel question how my mother didn’t go insane. But hey, as a kid in a big family these types of hazings were just part of life.
9) Warm showers were a luxury
Not much more to say here. If you were not quick to jump in the shower, you may as well jump in an ice bath- and there was nothing you could do about it.
10) You didn’t have the option to be materialistic
In a big family, you have to be frugal. You learn to appreciate every single thing you got. You only received gifts on special occasions; therefore, you learned to use your imagination and play with things outside.
As a kid, I remember an entire summer where we played with nothing but a “family” of sticks. We imagined the sticks were real. We built them homes (ironically out of other sticks), and named them. Don’t get me wrong, we did have toys, but we found that using our imagination together was a better use of our play time. And looking back we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, I have four, non-judgmental best friends. When we get together we spend most of our time laughing about our fond childhood memories and inside jokes.
When you are in a big family, you learn early on to be resourceful, non-materialistic, and cooperative. You don’t have any other choice.
The most important thing that being part of a big family has taught me is that family is the most important thing in the world.
Also, that if there is bacon around, you have to be fast if you want a second piece.
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