Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Having (a Lot of) Siblings Is Great for Kids

"You're crazy!"

"I don't know how you do it."

"God bless you, lady!"

As a mother of 5, I've pretty much heard it all. Life is busy and crazy in a house full of 7 people, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

And neither would my kids.

I've written several posts about why I love having a big family, and even a post about how my kids still get enough love even though my time is divided by five. But I haven't written about what my kids have to say, or what they get out of the deal.

Never a Dull Moment

"What's it like having older sisters?" I once overhead my oldest asking one of her younger brothers as they brushed their teeth.

"It's like real life," he answered in his 6-year-old wisdom. Then he clarified, "You know, like, lots of persons to play with me."
Why Having (a Lot of) Siblings Is Great for Kids -- Why my kids love having many brothers and sisters, including an awesome prediction for their future.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
And that pretty much sums it up, from their point of view. Do they get annoyed with each other? Fight? Of course. But not nearly as much as they play. They would be bored to death without each other.

Of course they're clueless that all the time they spend together translates into the world's most intensive course in sharing, negotiating, compromising, and getting along with people who share your space.

One day I think they'll all make better roommates, spouses, coworkers, and parents because of all the practice they've had.

Allllllllllllll the Love

When my fourth child was a baby, I used to go get her when she woke up from her nap and attempt to snuggle with her in the rocking chair. But I was never very successful.

She'd only humor me for a minute before squirming out of my arms and crawling down the hall to look for her siblings. I knew when she found them because the house would erupt in a loud chorus of "Hi! You're awake!" From the baby, there were happy squeals that only dogs can hear.

The way the express their love changes a little as they grow. The older kids are more likely to pounce on each other and start talking about Minecraft (ugh) the moment they're home from school, but the love is the same.

Learning the Fine Art of Compassion

When you have siblings of both genders and a wide variety of ages and abilities, you quickly learn that everyone is different.

I love it when the kids genuinely compliment one of their younger siblings on doing a "good job," whether it's scribbling their first few letters or building a simple jet out of Legos. Of course they know they can do it better, but they understand that people deserve congratulations for doing their best, even if it's not the best.

Why Having (a Lot of) Siblings Is Great for Kids -- Why my kids love having many brothers and sisters, including an awesome prediction for their future.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Was praised more highly than most Rembrandts.

The older ones feel important because their little siblings look up to them. The little ones thrive on compliments from their cool, older siblings. And everyone learns that 'love' equals 'help.'

Partly out of necessity, people in big families know that pitching in and doing things for others is just a part of life. Not coming from a big family myself (it's just me and my brother,) I was always paranoid about asking the kids to help each other. I was afraid they'd feel like "little parents" who felt forced to raise their siblings.

But in my experience so far, that hasn't been the problem I'd thought it would be. Of course I ask them to help pour the milk for their sister sometimes, but more often it's them asking, "Can I get the baby out of the crib?" (or more heart-warming, "Can I share my Skittles with my sisters?") And I'm stammering, "Uh, sure... but you don't have to!"

The Best Is Yet to Come

Although I see great things happening right now in our big family while my kids are still young, I don't think the best part will really emerge until after they're grown.

I think about our family reunions and how much fun they'll be. I think of the all the cousin friendships as they start to have kids of their own. And mostly, I think of how awesome it'll be for them to have each other as adult friends.

Phillip is one of 7 children, and I've seen how it works.

When my sister-in-law had some pretty severe health problems, the family network was there for her. All the siblings are scattered in different states, but a flurry of emails kept everybody updated and praying together for her. People took turns doing what they could to help. One sister was in a position where she could go live with her for a while, and she did. There were many, many hands making her burden lighter.

Everything Is a Trade-off

Having a big family, like pretty much any other choice you make as a parent, involves trade-offs.

Our family vacations will probably involve more road trips and camping than all-inclusive resorts in Europe. Life is more hectic, and we probably spend more of our quality time together as a whole family (or at least in groups of 3 or 4) than we do one-on-one.

Once they've grown up, will my children wish they'd had it differently? I don't have a crystal ball so I can't tell you for sure.

But I do know that if we'd had fewer children (and therefore, more money and time,) that would've been a trade-off, too.

They'd be missing the playmates. They'd be missing the sheer number of people to love and all the chances to learn how to live with others. And when they grew up, they'd be missing the network of family we're building right now.

We realize the trade-offs we made by having a big family. All in all, we still feel that we traded up.

Why Having (a Lot of) Siblings Is Great for Kids -- Why my kids love having many brothers and sisters, including an awesome prediction for their future.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}


  1. AuntSue
    Six was a great number! Now they are always there for each other, as roommates, with advice, a visit, even money if needed.
    Number six is still sad that he can't be a big brother.

    1. Being a big sibling is probably the best thing to ever happen for my older kids! It teaches them to be gentle, compassionate, protective, and aware of little kids that need to be looked out for. So sad that the youngest siblings never get the chance!

  2. You're so smart. Lucky babies :)

  3. I LOVE THIS! With four little ones under 7 it can be tough, but I know: The Best Is Yet to Come......love it! My question for you: was it a hard transition going from 4 to 5? We are thinking about number 5 (and maybe 6!!!) and I was just wondering what your experience has been! Thanks for linking up at Ladies Collective - glad to have found your site!

    1. In my experience, after four, you might as well have ten except for the extra expenses and laundry! I have seven and really it has gotten easier and easier since #3. that was the hardest time for me, but I think it is a little different for everyone.

    2. Well, going from 4 to 5 kicked our butts, but so did going from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and 3 to 4! In my experience, babies are just hard and takes us a good 9-12 months to adjust and find our groove (especially if we also have a toddler at the time.) So for me it's not really a function of the overall number of kids, just whether there's a baby and a toddler!

  4. I think it's swings and roundabouts - what works for some doesn't work for all and I know people who were quite contented stopping at one. I only have two but that's all I ever wanted and yes they have a love hate relationship but I agree when they are having huge fun together or when JJ compliments his little brother on something it makes me so happy! :-) #sharewithme

    1. For sure it's not for everybody, and I'd never say that everyone should have a certain number of kids. But I do hope with this post to show why having a big family isn't a lifestyle choice I'm making at the expense of my kids: I really do think it's the right thing for me AND for them.

  5. I never wanted a large family so am quite content with two! That said, I notice a bit of a difference between my eldest and her friends who are only children. I didn't notice any at all until she reached the age of six but you can see only children have a different outlook. #sharewithme

  6. My kids were just talking the other day about how sad they were for their little sister that she would never have the fun of having a baby sibling. It was the sweetest thing ever!
    However, I have a lot of work to do with my oldest in the next three years to ensure that his future roommate does not murder him in his sleep. Being in a big family didn't 'take' with him.

  7. I grew up with a lot of cousins and they were my best friends. I've always wanted a big family so that when I get to be a grandma, I'll have lots of grandkids and cousins for everyone to play with.
    I was the youngest of four. I wanted to have a baby brother so bad! My mom was done having kids, but I always wanted to feel that older sibling thing when you have someone younger looking up to you. I got it from my cousins.
    That's why I love big families. And that there is always at least one person to help the sad sibling happier.

  8. Jenny, this is a grat post. Thanks for sharing your perspective, and the kids'!!
    I only had 2. I wanted 3, but had to have a hysterectomy. It worked out. God knew I couldn't have handled 3!!
    I think y'all are doing a great job. And yes, their world will be a much better place for them having learned all those great lessons!!

  9. Lynne from the UK here.
    I am one of 5 lost my big sis (#1) almost a year ago and my little sis (#4) almost 7 months ago. Missing them like crazy though we didn't see each other much we spoke regularly on Facebook or by text. Still got my brother (#3) & my baby sis (#5). We may have seemed distant as a family not seeing each other often but come a crisis we came together for one another.

  10. I am one of eight children and I absolutely love my big family and I wish I could have a big family of my own someday. It's just more love and more going on yes but in the end it does make better roommates, partners, siblings, sharers, carers, lovers, and family reunions are awesome with so many. lol I am the same totally agree. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  11. I love the extended family.You're a smart person :)