By Mackenzie M.
How many brothers and sisters do you have? In most cases you would answer with one or two; maybe you would answer with none at all. It seems that in recent decades, the trend of having large families has declined significantly. In Canada, the average family will have between one and two children while the average family world-wide will have between two and three children.
I remember hearing from my grandmother about living on a farm years and years ago with her brothers and sisters. The way she talked about their interactions and way of life was really quite astounding. Everyone in her family had a job to do from fieldwork to milking cows. The farm staff was made up almost entirely of her brothers, sisters, and parents. The family unit was much closer and was used as a much greater resource than it seems to be used in the present. Issues were dealt with within the family and youth development entailed a team effort rather than an individual one. My grandmother and her siblings grew up looking out for one another, being role models, and developing important personality characteristics that helped shape them into functioning persons in society.
That type of family wasn’t extremely rare back in those days but it’s even harder to come across such a large family today. I have the privilege of knowing a large family who agreed to let me talk about them in this post. Elouise and Jason Kitchen have had six children, and the seventh is on the way, over the past ten years. So far, the couple has four daughters and two sons. Knowing the family for a while, I can attest to the positive benefits and few negatives that can come from having such a large number of children.
Working with youth through youth programs I’ve seen several families with children that might have a problematic condition. There’s the case of a child who is demanding and self-centered as the result of being an only child; a child may be sheltered from an overprotective parent; or some children seem to have so much energy and such a small attention span that getting anything done productively is practically impossible.
I asked Elouise what some of the best things about having that many children are; she said, “The best thing is everyone naturally learns to be a leader and to help one another.” It seems once there are enough children in a family, they start to act as a society within the group. Each sibling is like a police officer in the group so when one child does something wrong, the other kids can pick up on it pretty quick and turn a negative moment into a positive learning experience. There’s much more emphasis on “team” within the family unit. I also asked Elouise about bad points; she said “All the laundry and cleaning up were quite exhausting” but she knows that as her children grow up “they will be able to help with the work.”
Of course, rearing lots and lots of children isn’t for everyone but there are some definite positive benefits to large families through means of resources, role modelling, and the focus on a team environment.