No baby bust here. Why I like to be part of a big family.
Over the years, people have often expressed shock when my parents reveal that they have 11 children. Some people ask my parents “how much” they wanted. I am always proud of my mother’s beautiful and humble response: “As much as God gives me. “
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan received an environmental award this summer for their ‘informed’ decision not to have more than two children – a move which is believed to reduce ‘their impact on the earth’.
The price is ironic considering they live in an 18,671 square foot mansion and use private jets to travel. As “Relatable” host Allie Beth Stuckey noted on her podcast, despite their family size, the couple’s carbon footprint is likely even higher than the average large family living in the Midwest.
Harry and Meghan’s decisions about their family are their own business, but rewarding them for limiting the number of their children is condescending and insulting to families like mine.
This not only implies that large families and their children are a net negative for society; it also denies the beauty that children and large families have to offer, and the role they play in forming model citizens who will contribute positively to society.
Big families teach responsibility
Big families are a lot of work. Every child comes with a host of medical, educational and other bills. When my parents were expecting me – their fourth child – my father quit his job and took a leap of faith to enroll in law school. He and my mother were thrifty and raised my siblings and I to act the same to keep our growing family afloat.
My mom devoted her time to home schooling, my siblings and I, while taking care of all the babies that came and went. She was a demanding teacher, ensuring that we received a good education and reached our potential both in school and in sport. She would get up at dawn each day to take care of her babies, prepare breakfast and take us out for daily mass.
My parents’ selfless efforts have taught my siblings and myself to be grateful for what has been given, to be humble, and to face up to when things have not turned out the way we wanted them to. I will never forget the shock I experienced when a friend slept at my house and asked my mom to make pancakes for her for breakfast, despite the food that had already been prepared for us.
My parents’ example instilled in us a sense of responsibility for each other and for the maintenance of our home. “Everyone’s getting started,” they would say. From a young age, we knew we should never walk past a messy kitchen and leave it to the next person to clean up.
We have learned how to change a diaper and calm a difficult baby.
Sacrificing our time in these little ways was not a problem because we knew our family needed each of us to help them function properly. It made us proud of our family and made our home a happier place.
Watching over each other
Large families are like model societies inside the house. Despite the fact that my siblings and I “look alike,” each of us has unique personalities, talents and weaknesses.
Maintaining a peaceful home with so many diverse people requires that siblings build strong relationships with one another and accept each other’s differences with patience, understanding, and love. This requires that they sometimes humble themselves in disputes or act as peacemakers between other siblings. This has reinforced the loyalty of siblings and intolerance of strangers who prey on our siblings.
Children of large families are never alone. They benefit from integrated best friends without the pressure of comparison or social media expectations, which causes depression and anxiety in so many of their peers.
My older and younger brothers are best friends despite being 20 years old. Few children have the luxury of having an adult adult – and nine other older siblings – at their disposal like my younger brother does.
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Older siblings become pseudo-parents to younger ones, setting the bar for acceptable behaviors and goals that their younger siblings should aspire to. My older brother graduated from the University of Notre Dame, paving the way for two more siblings and myself to attend the school of our dreams. I am sure other brothers and sisters will follow in our footsteps as well.
My older sister was a second mom to the rest of us. Her role has evolved over the years from a disciplinary chef, hairstylist and clothes lender to the reliable sister we all respect and trust. Thanks to the examples and generosity of her and my other older siblings, I’m happy to help when my younger siblings ask me to edit a school journal, read them a story, or tell them. border at night. I used to be in their shoes and know the invaluable value of an older brother’s attention and time.
These experiences prepare older siblings to become responsible adults from an early age. Their care is at the same time a gift to the young brothers and sisters, who keep the family young with their innocence and joy.
Presence on gifts
Having lots of siblings means there is always someone there to celebrate your joys and comfort you in difficult times. When my grandmother passed away shortly before Christmas last year, all 13 of my family gathered around the fireplace to pray for her together.
When the rest of the world was closed and cold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my parents welcomed each of their 11 children to the home in quarantine – the first time we’ve all been together for a long time since my brother elder went to college.
Almost packed with 13 people housed inside, my house has seen Zoom Masses, family dinners, and movie nights. A moment in history that should have been scary and depressing has become one of my favorite memories.
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This time spent together has reinforced to me the truth that all the money and recognition in the world cannot replace the human bond and love that I find in my siblings and parents, which is the hallmark of makes great families.
It’s easy to ignore or take for granted all manifestations of a parent’s sacrificial love as a child. Today, I am grateful for the tireless dedication of my parents to the spiritual, academic and personal development of each of my siblings.
I am even more grateful for the greatest gift they could have given us – to each other.
Theresa Olohan is an Opinion member of the USA TODAY Editorial Board and a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Follow her on Twitter: @olohan_theresa