We are in the early stages of a 20 plus hour drive from the land of my childhood family (Iowa) back to the land of my adult family ( Maryland). For each of the last ten days, I have spent a portion of the day with various members of my birth family. I have eight sisters and four brothers and on this trip, I saw all of those who continue to live in Iowa, which is three brothers and two sisters. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with each of them and their families.
Growing up in a big family has many challenges, but I believe the benefits are greater than those. For many years, I took for granted the massive support system that I was lucky enough to be born into. Growing up there were fights, name calling and hurt feelings, but there were plenty of good times too. There are still moments when we fall back into our childish roles and we behave badly. We have a tendency to pick out someone and gang up on them. Usually it is good natured teasing and some of us take it better than others. It isn’t always nice, but it is mostly in fun and we can laugh it off.
In the last ten years since I have had my own family, I have really come to appreciate my sisters and my brothers. When I feel overwhelmed by the demands of having three boys within five years, I can call or email any of my sisters for advice or sympathy. They give me advice on clothes, hair, cooking, health and life in general. There are times, when I don’t speak to any of them for weeks, but I take comfort knowing they are there. I consider my sisters my best friends and I feel incredibly lucky that I have so many to choose from to bounce ideas off of and to have a good time. Since starting my blog, my sisters have been my biggest supporters and I will always be grateful to them for that.
I have noticed that when the times get tough for any of us we all rally around and do our best to help each other. Being in a large family isn’t always good times. We do get together sometimes and “discuss” what we think is best for other members of the family especially our aging parents. Some people might think this is butting in each others business, but I believe we each have our strengths and try to use them to help each other out.
Of course, I live on the other side of the country from my parents and most of my siblings so I don’t have to worry too much about people butting into my business. The downside to this is my kids do miss out on seeing their many cousins and aunts and uncles. They love when there is a large extended family gathering and they get to see their cousins. They have good relationships with all of them and are able to pick up where they left off at their last meeting and play together as if they had just seen them the day before. I keep seeing a Facebook post that says, “cousins are your first best friends”. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Not only am I blessed with so many siblings, my parents come from families of 15 and 8 children apiece so I had many cousin of my own to have fun and get into mischief with.
As I watch my three sons growing up playing together and having their own fights, I hope that they will come to realize they can rely on each other for help and support. I also hope they continue to nurture those relationships with the extended family they have on both sides. Family is really a blessing that not everyone is lucky enough to have and too often those of us who do have it, take for granted.