I come from a small family. I have one brother and just eight first cousins. We all lived in New Jersey growing up – including my grandparents on both sides – so we were able to see each other often. We don’t all get together as much as we’d like to now, but when we do, we always manage to have a great time. On the flip side, my husband comes from a huge family. He has nine older siblings (that’s us in our wedding picture, circa 2003, surrounded by all his brothers, sisters and his mother) and he has 32 first cousins. Growing up, most of his family also lived in close proximity. And much like our family they don’t all get together as often as they’d like, but when they do, good times are always had!
Having lived among a small close-knit family for 28 years before meeting my husband, you can say my horizons have been broadened. All in a good way, of course. Actually in a great way! So much so that I often wonder about something I never used to think about: Do big families actually have more fun? Could it be possible? Is it debatable?
To qualify this debate, I am referring to big families as having four or more children. So if you were to ask my brother’s wife if big families have more fun, she would say “Absolutely!” without hesitation. She is one of five siblings and has told my family countless times how a big family is so much more fun than a small family. And now she and my brother have four children, so she means business when it comes to big families.
I also have friends who have married into big families, and have said how much fun they have after spending a weekend, or even just an event, with their in-laws. Things like, “It’s always energizing and exciting.” “There’s never a dull moment.” “Get-togethers like that make me wish I came from a big family too.”
Sure all that can be said, but small family gatherings are not so shabby either. I don’t think I could top the memories I have spending summers with my cousins at my grandparents’ beach house, or the holidays we shared around the dining room table. Yea, maybe there weren’t a lot of us, but we always managed to hoop it up.
And coming from a small family, there are definitely things to get used to with a big family. There’s much more “go with the flow”, down-time – and privacy – is often a rarity, no one always gets a bed, there’s rarely one table conversation happening at one time, sometimes you don’t even get a seat at the table, and – as is the case with my kids who have 23 cousins – you don’t always get to “know” everyone. My seven-year-old and four-year-old have cousins who are in their 30s and they still have not met, or at least remember meeting, all of them!
And then there’s my mom’s perspective. While she, no doubt, agrees that the big families my brother and I married into are fun and fabulous, she is often in awe when I tell her about the logistics behind some of my husband’s family gatherings. Like the time there were 25 of us all staying in one three-bedroom condo over New Years Eve. My daughter was just nine-months old at the time, and I remember having to feed her breakfast early on New Years Day while many of my nieces and nephews slept in sleeping bags under, and around, the dining room table. Really it was not a big deal – it was hilarious – and no one even thought twice of it. It’s what you get with a big family.
Yes there are some things you have to get used to with a big family, but all that becomes relative. So, would I have it any other way? I don’t think so!
I feel blessed to come from a family that ‘s small enough for both sides of my parents’ families to come together for the holidays in NJ. Because there’s not many of us, our lives have criss-crossed so many times that it’s just another family affair. Yet marrying into a big family has been a hoot too. I now have 10 sister-in-laws (if you count my brother’s wife and my brother-in-law’s wives) and I don’t even have a sister. Yea, picking bridesmaids was a challenge (oh, and for the record, that is not a stain on my sister-in-law’s bridesmaid dress but an unfortunate rip in my pic!), but we certainly got the “party” we strived for with our wedding (my husband’s family alone amounted to 100 guests on our invite list!).
It’s true there are definite pluses and minuses that come with small and large families, but can anyone say one scenario is better than the other? I often wonder and won’t say either way. But I’d love for you to chime in with your thoughts!