12 lessons I learned from having a big family
When I was younger, my most used ice breaker was that I had six younger siblings. “No we are not half siblings, step-siblings, adopted nor is there a set of twins in the mix”. Does this cause confusion and a million questions at the border, yes yes it does (and it doesn’t help that we don’t have the same last name). We are 7 children just because my parents wanted to have a big fat family. I honestly don’t notice that we are that many nor do guests when they say “you’re house is really clean for 7 children, mine’s a mess and I only have three”. The more we get older the more tidy, put together and less dysfunctional we are and the closer we are to getting an NBC reality show! But for now, here’s a list of 12 lessons I’ve learned from growing up in a big family…
move it or lost it- if you want to join the grocery run or want to order at the drive thru window. Say it loud or forever hold your peace
everyone is different- just cause we’re all related doesn’t mean we all think, react and feel the same. Respecting everyone’s individuality is key. It’s important to figure out who likes onions and who despises them, who loves scary movies and who doesn’t and so on. Knowing what ticks people off and what makes them overjoyed is the key to friendship
respect your elders- On most days you can’t tell the oldest from the third or fourth oldest but respecting that someone older than you might have a clue about what they’re talking about prevents making unnecessary mistakes. Things like having different bed times, different curfews and one of my siblings not being allowed to get a phone while another one is allowed to have a phone but no social media apps. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
share everything- if you’re not using something and someone else needs it at that time, you have to give it away. There’s no hoarding, hiding and saving for tomorrow. If it’s a calculator, change, a pair of jeans or even your headphones. Sharing ensures that that person is willing to give to you tomorrow when you’re in need.
whatever I say stays here- whatever I tell my siblings, parents or whatever they tell me isn’t for me to tell my bestfriend or to defend them without their permission. They told me in confidence and if they are not in immediate danger, that information ends with me.
community is everything- it’s important to have each other but to also find our chosen families. I want nothing more for my family members to have their own friends they consider brothers and sisters. I think our culture has a habit of saying “family first” or “no new friends” which I think is a little toxic. I think it’s important to have a team, a support group, or even a book club to lean on. Another thing, can we please stop romanticizing controlling our partner’s friendships..the ongoing gag about not wanting your partner to speak to anyone of the opposite gender is manipulative and bizarre. Have strong friends that motivate you and love you. I know what joy it is to be surrounded by others and I wouldn’t want to take that away from anyone because of jealousy or insecurity.
fighting is inevitable- you will fight and sometimes you don’t even know how it started. Sleep on it, plan to apologize or hear the other person out and know that you love each other.
be present whenever you’re together- does it break my heart that we don’t all eat dinner together like we did 10 years ago, yes. Everyone is working, everyone has assignments, exams, games, dentist appointments, so we have to do what we can; which is to be present whenever we are together. No cellphones, no television unless were watching a movie together etc. Set boundaries to get the most out of your time together.
take responsibility for yourself- one thing I’ve been teaching my younger brothers is to take responsibility for their own space and belongings. They really want to get paid but suck at chores so we’re starting with emptying their lunches, putting away their controllers not leaving their sweaters on the couch! If you take responsibility for your space and I take care of mine, cleaning the house is quick and not as unfair.
be vulnerable- we grew up with quite a few toxic beliefs about showing emotions, crying and expressing our joyous or even sad experiences. So it’s something we are trying to all work through. Things like saying “I love you” and “sorry” are not quite second nature yet but after losing my uncle, it’s something we are prioritizing.
compromise- you won’t always like how or what someone else is doing but when you learn to compromise certain behaviours (and maybe your tone), the ship sails a little smoother. For example, everyone hated when I hate PB sandwiches in the car and I honestly kept doing it till I realized this is something I have to compromise on for the benefit of everyone else.
we protect each other- they’re are hard truths we have to face while being black, female or children. If someone needs a ride immediately we’re there, if someone wants to talk or needs to be walked to the door or to their car, we do that! It's important to educate in order to protect not neglect telling hard truths to protect the one's we care about. It's important that the kids know that they don't have to talk to everyone, that predators exist in person and on the internet, to take care of their friends, respect other people's space etc. To talk about sexual assault, self harm, racism, suicide, homophobia etc. to be better able to read the signs and ask for help. And in protecting them by empowering them with information, I feel more empowered to protect myself or share what I've been through.
Some of the things on this list I am able to freely give to my friends or back to my family because I was raised to or because I didn’t have it when I needed it. Maybe I didn’t have a sense of security or unconditional love so I give it to those I claim I love you. I know to never go to someone’s house empty handed, to welcome guest like you would want to be welcomed, to make your parents proud for good karma and long life. And to take lots of pictures and be super super grateful because time flies like you wouldn’t believe...