The 19 things you only understand if you grew up in a big family.

If you have 19 kids in your family, you score your own reality show. But even if your family is just big, not Duggar-sized, life is still pretty interesting.

I was the seventh child of eight. Five girls, three boys. We all fitted in one Holden station wagon, with the youngest three of us travelling in the boot.

Every big family has its own story, but these are some things that other kids from big families might remember about their childhoods.

1. You were very good at splitting things perfectly equally.

Treats had to be divided into the number of portions that equated to the number of kids in your family. One-eighth of a Violet Crumble still tastes pretty good.

2. You were used to being called by someone else’s name.

Your mum usually went through about three of your siblings’ names before she got to yours.

3. You were never, ever, ever under the delusion that the world revolved around you.

This has made you a fantastic adult.

growing up in a big family
Real life might not have been quite as hectic as portrayed by the 12-sibling family in Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), but it had it's moments. Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

4. You shared baths.

It saved water and time. Plus, it was fun.

5. You had to wait for the toilet.

Someone else was always in there when you needed to go. You got used to queuing long before you attended your first music festival.

6. You had to find a way to be heard.

In conversations, you learnt to make your point quickly, or be funny, or just be much, much louder than everyone else.

7. You saw privacy as a luxury.

You shared a room, most probably sleeping in the bunk above or below a sibling. At least one of your brothers or sisters read your excruciatingly personal secret diary, even if you didn’t know it at the time. (I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to two of my sisters. I only read a couple of pages, honest.)

8. You ate whatever what was put in front of you.

Most often, mince.

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9. You wore other people’s clothes.

If you were near the bottom of the family, your wardrobe was filled with hand-me-downs, which “still had a lot of wear” in them. You were always after the trend and before the revival.

10. You looked up to your older brothers and sisters.

They seemed cooler than you… perhaps because they didn’t have to wear hand-me-downs. They were also better at school than you, as teachers couldn’t help but point out. They were also really, really bossy (or, as they saw it, mature, responsible, and a big help with the younger kids).

11. You didn’t get a lot of presents on your birthday.

But that was okay, because you had all your siblings’ unwanted toys to play with – broken battery-operated cars, dolls with unfortunate haircuts, etc.



12. If you were near the bottom of the family, you had almost no baby photos.

After photographing half a dozen or so identical-looking babies, your parents just ran out of enthusiasm. Also, there was no point asking them at what age you began walking or talking. It was all a blur.

13. You had to face an uncomfortable truth about your parents’ sex life.

When you found out about sex, you realised that your parents had “done it” six or seven or eight times, while most of your friends’ parents had only “done it” twice.

14. Your family had some kind of genius organisational system.

Colour coding? It works.

15. There was a golden child.

It was not you.

16. People assumed you were Catholic.

If you were, you were always bumping into other kids from big Catholic families, and discovering you had at least a couple of siblings with the same names. (“You’ve got a Bernadette too?”)

17. Your mother was a freaking saint.

Something you didn’t fully appreciate until you had a kid of your own.

18. You always had someone to play with.

You could split into teams for cricket. Jigsaws always got finished. Board games got seriously competitive. If you could convince everyone to play hide-and-seek or sardines, it was epic.

19. You loved growing up in a big family.

You had a tribe, an identity. You were never alone, almost never bored. Your brothers and sisters annoyed you, but you couldn’t help being close, because there wasn’t enough room to grow distant. You kind of wish your kids could experience the same upbringing... but not enough to actually have that many kids yourself.

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