The Bigger, The Better: 10 Things You Learn From Having A Big Family

by Meghan Collie

Growing up with three brothers was a blessing and a curse: chaotic, hilarious, life-changing and filled with jock straps. I distinctly remember being 6 years old, awaiting the birth of my third brother and thinking to myself, “When the hell is this going to stop?”

As a young girl, I was often pissed off my giant family seemed to consume the time and energy of everyone and everything with which we interacted.

Being a quasi-adult now, though, I understand my obnoxious party of six is to thank for some of my best qualities and all the virtues our unique family dynamic instilled within me.

1. You can’t always get what you want.

Take Christmas, for example: Our parents often find themselves drowning in presents by the time Christmas rolls around, receipts and lists having gone out the window a month ago.

It’s usually the case that one of us appears to be easier to buy for that year, or one of us needs more, or one of us is living away from home and my mom misses that one.

The bottom line is this: Even though everyone else stopped having gifts to open 20 minutes ago, the Christmas Winner is still pushing through a rather large pile of gifts.

2. Always make reservations.

This probably isn’t as imperative if it’s only two of you going out for dinner, but reservations exist for a reason: Restaurants hate being caught off guard. Would it kill you to give them a call an hour before to say you’re coming in?

This life skill was engrained in my brain after several experiences of trucking our giant family into a rather full restaurant and being turned away because, sometimes, six seats just can’t work.

3. Label what’s yours.

If I had one understanding of living with roommates before moving in with roommates, it was that you need to be very clear about what food in the kitchen is yours, or it will be gone within six hours of purchase.

Get aggressive, guys; permanent markers for labeling are your best friends. If you don’t, that delicious parfait you plan to have before school tomorrow will be down one of your siblings' throats ASAP.

4. Borrowing money is never a good idea.

It may seem hilarious (at the time) that your little brother thinks $0.07 has more value than every other sum ever (I have yet to figure out what got this into his brain), but borrowing anyone else’s money will eventually catch up with you.

Whether it’s used as leverage so you don’t tell Mom and Dad about how he got home two hours after curfew, or you end up in a lot of serious debt, the outcome of borrowing money sucks. Don’t do it!

5. Boundaries are overrated (for the most part).

Considering that I shared bath time until I was easily 6 years old, I can confidently say life is better without boundaries.

Sharing everything gives you a refreshing sense of community, and when you’re one child of four, I guess you are your own mini-community.

I pushed for the “closed door” policy for probably half of my adolescence, but I’ve since realized life is better when someone can walk in and flop onto your bed uninhibited. Those times make for the best conversations.

6. Family iMessage conversations are gold.

Seriously. I pray your parents have iPhones because everyone should have access to the technology that lets your entire family talk, regardless of where they are in the world. Also, parents + emojis = hilarious, every time.

7. Laughter fixes (almost) everything.

Finals season, job applications, a breakup… everything can seem very heavy sometimes.

My brothers will jump through hoops to make me laugh and feel better, and that’s what counts. Nothing is ever as serious as it may seem. My huge, loud, sarcastic family taught me that laughing can make even the heaviest situation feel light.

8. Early bird gets the worm.

And, by worm, I mean bacon. Breakfast in a big family is a scene straight out of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” though, sometimes, it feels more “Hunger Games.”

My brothers are quickly becoming big, tall and muscular, and it has become a lot harder to physically beat them in anything. That’s why, if I wake up earlier than they do, breakfast life is easy living.

9. Teamwork is everything.

From secret house parties in high school to working closely in a certain department at your new job, teamwork is always the answer.

Everything I learned about bribing my brothers to lying to my parents, ditching the party at 11:00 pm and even helping to clean up can be immediately transferred to working on a team in the real world. You have to play to people’s desires to get what you desire.

10. Put yourself in other people's shoes.

Sometimes, I look at one of my brothers and I think to myself, “What the hell are you doing?” Then, I remember when I was 15, and I remember 15-year-old me totally would have done the exact same thing.

Empathy is an asset in a world where understanding others is hardly second nature.