Tuesday, November 25, 2008
2 Parents + 8 Kids = Holidays
***I want to introduce you to Jen at CubiclesBackPorch. I stumbled upon Jen some time back and since then she has made me laugh with her stories about crazy family antics, college dayz and farm living. She has graciously agreed to do a guest post here at CafeKel while I'm away and I know this one will bring a little cheer to your holiday spirit too. Thanks Jen! ***
Kel asked me to do a guest post (My first one! Ever!) and in the spirit of Thanksgiving and family, I decided to write about what it's like growing up as the oldest of 8 kids. Yes. 8.
First, a small introduction. I am the oldest at 25 years old. The current ages then follow as: 23, 20, 19, 18, 16, 15, 12. So my parents had 8 kids within 13 years.
Growing up in a large family is as normal to me as someone who grew up an only child I suppose. Except that people in a small town tend to stare more when there's a mom with 8 kids following behind her in the grocery store. (Not to mention the TWO over-filling grocery carts) I remember being 13 or so and feeling like EVERYONE stared at us. It was rare when my mom didn't get stopped in a grocery store by a stranger who would ask "Are they ALL yours?" She would often say that she wanted to get a shirt made that said "Yes, they're all mine. Yes, we're Catholic. And YES, I'm still married to their father." Or some variation of that.
All 10 of us (plus a dog and a cat or two) lived in a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house on a couple of acres in Indiana. Needless to say, us girls developed strong bladders and the boys learned at a young age that peeing off the backporch saved them a world of hurtin.
Being the oldest had lots of responsibility. I learned to do laundry at a young age. I learned that folding my sisters clothes inside out would get me in trouble. I learned how to hand wash dishes like I was Cinderalla. (And sometimes, to pass the time, I was) I was also responsible for feeding the hogs and cleaning the barn. It was the latter chore that I loved. It also meant that I got time to myself out in the barn, time that I used to explore the old buildings that were used to house livestock before my parents lived there. I knew what parts of the roof were okay to walk on and what parts to avoid. I envisioned writing my novels out under the metal roofs in the rain.
Growing up in a large family in the country, there was always someone to play with and always something to do. #2 and I would make bicycle roads around the house with rules that had to be followed. "School" was a regular thing we did where I was the teacher, #2 was the gym teacher (b/c I needed time to grade papers), and the other siblings were the students who were usually eager learners. We used to swing on the pasture gates, 'explore' in the tall weeds, and watch for deer in the evenings.
Of course money was tight. My friends would talk about going shopping on the weekends and I couldn't imagine going shopping for no reason... we got clothes before school started and for Christmas and that was all the shopping we normally did. We were on food stamps for a while. Vacations were rare. But, we had everything we needed.
One thing that I think about now that I'm older is how my parents raised us without jealousy. I don't remember ever being jealous of my siblings or feeling like my parents never paid attention to me. Toys were shared. We each took turns riding with Dad to town. Whenever a new one came along, we were all excited and eager to meet the new sibling. How did they do that? How did they treat us each the same? Sometimes I don't think they even know how they did it.
Eventually, my dad started working for an automaker and making decent money. We moved to Kentucky to a 5 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house. Most of my siblings don't remember the little house in Indiana, or how summer days were spent outside.
Every year, when we're all seated around the Thanksgiving table, (There will be around 17 this year- (our parents, 8 kids, 3 boyfriends, and 4 grandkids) my mind drifts back to the little house and the life we all started there. Then I thank God that my parents have more than one bathroom now. And a dishwasher.
So this Thanksgiving when you're waiting at the bathroom door for Uncle Stan to get done, just remember that it could be worse... there could be 7 other people in front of you.
Don't Forget the Pajama Gram GiveAway!!