I am part of a big family. I’m one of six siblings. I’m also part of a big extended family. My Mom was one of nine siblings, my Dad is one of seven. We are, I like to think, a close group that care for one another and are happy to see each other. I’m very proud of both sides of the family.
Growing up in a big family gives you friends and company for life. Of course, if you have big issues or big problems with your siblings and family, then you try to stay away from those who create such problems or stress, which is totally understandable. But for me, being part of a big family has always been a blessing.
I’m the second of six siblings. We have a particular order in our family: one boy, one girl (me), one boy, one girl, one boy, one girl. We were also named in a particular way: we are all named after someone in the family. Also all boys’ middle name is Manuel (after our Dad), and all girls’ middle name is Raquel (after our Mom).
Growing up with many siblings is a blessing and a struggle at the same time. My Mom was fair sometimes. Well, now that I am the adult, I say she was fair many, many times. If any of us complained about another, both would get a spanking and a punishment. She’d set the punishment, and then say “wait till you Dad gets home”.
Now, I don’t remember my Dad ever spanking us. But, imagine this, he was a cop and also a soldier, and he was a strict father. So we would be worried sick waiting for him, because, as a child, this was scary. I see now it was all in our heads. He’d call us to the table, still in his uniform, ask what happened and say “make sure it doesn’t happen again”.
Only with the passing of the years, and with us growing up, we saw our Mom soften, especially with the younger siblings. Growing up, being far from town, you eat what your mom serves you. If you didn’t like it, well, you’d go hungry. But then, with the younger ones, she’d cook their preferred dishes, because they were picky eaters. My Dad would often say “this is not a cafeteria. Why is your plate different from your brother’s”.
A house full of kids is noisy. My Mom would send us outside to play. We’d come up with games. We had to learn to play with each other. We had to learn to agree or disagree, but no fighting was allowed. We did fight over who got to sit by the windows in the car. My Mom still managed to have us behave when there were visitors, and when we went to visit others.
As an individual, you see things from your point of view, of course. When you’re younger, and you live with many siblings, you think “this is unfair, I don’t get what I want. Why is he/she getting what she wants?” I guess, even when you don’t have many siblings, some young people still think like that. But when you grow up with siblings, you manage to learn when is your time to get your way and when it isn’t.
With siblings you learn to watch out for one another. You learn to share. You have a partner, a friend for life. You have a secret keeper. As far back as I remember, I always had a sibling around. Being the oldest sister also meant that I had to help with the young ones. It also meant that I used that to my advantage. Growing up with younger siblings, I’d set them to do things for me. They often did them, and I think, if I ask nicely, they’d still do things for me.
When I left the house to go to college, I wanted to be on my own. I saw things different from my parents. When you’re young, you think you are capable of doing many things on your own. I think that is the purpose of growing up and getting to develop your own opinion or criteria of how things work. So you’d believe you are ready to face the world. So if your kids think like that, maybe you have succeeded as a parent.
Then I got my own children. I started to understand my parents’ struggles, especially my Mom’s. Then your child becomes an adolescent, and starts voicing their opinion. Oh, that’s why we disagreed so much with our parents? Oh dear Mom, how sorry I am of those silly disagreements. You were right. You were always right.
Leaving the house also meant being on my own. Taking charge of getting up on my own, preparing meals, taking care of my clothes, books, money. Starting a job, having a child, taking care of a house, of a family. Welcome to adulthood. You understand why I’d like to go back to my Mom taking care of me.
But it also meant living without your siblings. Being in a house full of kids, we had to share toys, share a room, share a closet, and, many times, share a bed. I always wondered what was going on in the house when I was not there. But as I left, one after the other, we all left. We grew up, some went to college, we got jobs, we got married. Eventually, we all moved out. I know my Mom missed having all of us in the house.
Many times, now as adults, we talk about old memories. Often one of us would say “I don’t remember that happening”. The response “you were too young to remember” or “you had moved out when that happened”. Yes, we grew up in the same household, we had the same parents. But each of us have a different perspective of how things happened. That’s what identifies each of us and make us each unique individuals.
At present time, in 2019, three of us siblings live in Florida, two are still in Puerto Rico, and one of my sisters is living overseas in Spain. I’m thankful for social media and chat groups, cell phones and texting. I’m also thankful that, no matter what, we got each other’s back. Thankful that, if needed, I have five good-hearted siblings that are my friends and I can count on for help or just to talk to. We still manage to agree to disagree.
We haven’t been together in the same place, since 2014 when our Mom passed. I miss those times,when we were all kids, playing around. I think it’s time for a siblings’ reunion. And who better to share my memories and mi tacita de café than with my siblings. Salud!
For Spanish version https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/03/24/una-casa-llena-de-ninos/