The More the Merrier

A woman once told me that anyone who chose to have a large family is a sucker for punishment. I can’t exactly speak about having raised a large family, but I do know what it was like growing up in one and of course observing my brothers and sisters raising theirs. So if I can’t speak for myself, I can speak for them. God blessed me with only one child but why anyone should ‘choose’ to have only one or two is beyond me.

Here are a few comparisons:

In a large family children learn to share automatically. The only way I could teach my child to share was for her to share with me. A large family, by its very nature guards against individual selfishness: what’s good for one is good for all and vice versa. A single child has only herself to think about and the child has to be actively taught to consider others. In a large family it is not easy to spoil children. Whatever you buy must be multiplied and cannot always be afforded. In a smaller family it is more affordable to buy something for the child and so it is easy to buy things more often, the mare so as we can easily give things to the child to compensate for his being alone.

Behaviour patterns in children are also easier to handle in large families. It is difficult to step ‘out of line’ as brothers and sisters will quickly comment on undesirable tendencies. I often find myself wondering if certain ‘phases’ in the single child are normal. Whether they should be stamped out or ignored. I once asked my mother how she managed to stay sane with so many daughters going through adolescence. She replied that there simply wasn’t time to make a fuss, we simply had to get through it ourselves. With the lack of sympathy from our brothers and sisters we learnt to get on with life with the least possible fuss. Siblings can be rather intolerant of each other’s faults if one decides to sulk over a certain issue the others will most likely just ignore him. Far more fuss is made over a single child; the problem is often magnified and the child learns to manipulate a situation.

Although it is a lot of hard work, especially when there are many younger ones, the load does get easier as the children grow up and become a great help in the home. Various chores are essential, thus exposing them to various skills. A teacher once commented that many Std. 5 pupils could not even lay a table for a simple function. Shared duties are often the cause of enjoyment among children. To a single child it is simply a duty and not exactly ‘fun’.

I was watching my 13 year old niece teach her 4 year old sister how to bake a cake and it made me realize just how much the younger children learn from their older brothers and sisters. Parents often do not have the same amount of time and patience.

Children have a lot of fun in large families. There are sometimes enough to make teams for games, play shop, drama plays, etc. Christmas, birthdays and feast days are especially joyous occasions in the large family. For a very small family it can be a lonely time.

Varied characters, talents and hobbies can make family life very interesting and is a source of stimulation amongst the children. One may love to sew, another cooking, woodworking, gardening, etc. A single child would need most of its stimulation from parents, school or friends [and will he get enough—ed. ].

Speaking of friends: a large family is often protected from bad outside influences because the children play within the family unit. The only child becomes lonely, looks for friends and is exposed to the ever present danger of negative influences. She begins to feel the odd-one-out when all the others are wearing the latest immodest clothes; she becomes more fashion conscious; she is influenced by their language, their manners and their morals. The parents of an only child have to be on their guard constantly.

When the older children begin courting there are many ‘unwanted’—but very useful—chaperones on constant duty, which is itself a wonderful safeguard. Imagine a young couple sitting on a bench in the garden holding hands and in the background constant whispers and giggles coming from behind the bushes. Older children also develop a sense of duty and responsibility towards future parenthood—they have to take care of and help with the little ones.

‘The family that prays together stays together’…. It is a heartwarming sight to see large family kneel together to say the family rosary or carry out their daily devotions, such as as family meals (seated around a table and not in front of the TV) with Grace before and after, novenas for special intentions such as a sick aunt, financial problems, etc.

My youth in a large family was a happy youth. My child is in seventh heaven when she can spend the holidays with her many cousins and I am always happy and at ease when she is there because I know it can only have a good effect on her thank goodness for extended large families!