Bigger families. Bigger benefits. Or not?

It’s Thanksgiving day and I’d say I’m number 12 of around 30 cousins in line waiting to make a plate.

Trying to convince my vegan cousins to let me get in front — that their vegan mac’ n cheese will still be there at the end of this.

The day starts stressful. You’re told not to eat because there will be plenty of food at Grandma’s and you better be hungry when it’s time to eat. So you grab one of the prepared dishes you were in charge of making and head over. All of the kids are out front playing on two separate football teams. Every adult woman is inside with their personalized aprons, gossiping while stirring sangria or dressing one of the six salads. Half the men are laid out on the couch screaming over the football game while the other half are in the backyard bonding over whatever it is they burn on the grill each year. And then there’s somebody’s baby passed out in each of the bedrooms.

That first part of the day makes the holiday pass by quickly. It’s the final part of the day that seems to never end and begin all at the same time.

My grandparents are very traditional.

Until they say it’s time to get in formation, don’t come in the kitchen. There’s no snack, or “just a little taste.” You just keep looking at the door hoping someone interrupts your football game to say, “come eat!”

When it’s time, we all line up with plates in hand. Don’t dare step out or to the back of the line you go. Then you finally push through and find an opening in the dining room, preferably next to your favorite cousin. This is typically when you try and sneak a bite right before it gets interrupted by the usual, “WAIT, EVERYONE HAS TO WAIT! WE STILL HAVE TO SAY GRACE.”

Last Thanksgiving my four-year-old nephew pretended like he was eating because he was so hungry. And yes, he got in trouble.

This process usually takes about half an hour, so no one’s food is ever hot. In fact, I never really realized that I don’t eat a hot meal on Thanksgiving until now. The only time I eat hot turkey is the next day when I microwave it.

This wasn’t just Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or even birthdays. Every event was an excuse for a large family gathering.

The preparation, the chaos, the non-stop chatter. A big table with lots of people around it was a requirement to a proper celebration.

In my immediate family I am the only girl of five brothers, with a niece and nephews and girlfriends and friends. The best way I can explain my family is, the last time we were all together, I stood on the coffee table and banged two of my brothers pots together to get everyone’s attention.

There’s a lot to that sentence.

For one, it’s tough always fighting to be heard and second, I’m obviously mentally stable.

Kidding, but in all seriousness, my family size has made me an extrovert and I, in a lot of ways, am very different from my friends with fewer or no siblings. And, well, my family is also a heck of a lot different from theirs.

So it got me thinking.

How much does family size really matter? How much of a role does it play into who we are and how we treat life?

I’ve always believed having a big family was never anything less than a blessing. And to an extent, it is. I’ve also always judged small families and quite frankly felt really bad for my friends who were the only child.

We’ve all heard or even lived the theory that kids from larger families are well-adjusted, charismatic and easy-going and those from smaller families had children that were “neurotic or anti-social” as if those would later contribute to an illness or something.

The National Bureau of Economic Research states that as families grow, kids suffer: with less parental investment, kids’ cognitive abilities decrease and behavioral issues arise. The problems the researchers found are not temporary; the impact lasts for a long periods of time. The research published by them trace 26 years of data on parents and children.

Both small and big families have similarities and differences, in the way they live and conduct their activities.

Children in big families tend to think that they are not important. For instance, when more than ten people surround the dinner table, some children may not even be noticed. This would make such children feel less catered for by their parents, and think they are not valued in the family.

Children from small families get all the attention from their parents. In whatever they do, their parents are still watching and ready to extend their hands for assistance. Such children grow being confidence, and feel being an important part in the family. Their creativity level is also high compared to children from big families.

According to Healthychildren.org an only child may have fewer opportunities to meet other children or to develop a sense of independence. They may be pushed to overachieve, and may receive so much doting attention that they become self-centered and undisciplined.

Vivian Diller Ph.D., a psychologist for family practice in New York, says, “You can have a family with one or two kids and experience deprivation and disconnection, or a family of many more and feel as if your cup runneth over. Regardless of size, there is something to say about family gatherings that give us all a chance to celebrate what we have – big or small.”

I think there’s also something to be said about where parents direct their attention regardless of family size. Despite the pros and cons of large and small, it really all comes down to the time, attention and evidently the financial stability of the family itself.

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Decades ago it was all too common to come from a family of four or more.

But, according to Pewreasearch.org the U.S annual fertility rate has hit an all-time low of 60.3 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

So why the recent decline?

Annual fertility declines have been dramatic over the past decade as a result of the Great Recession and despite the economy making a clutch rebound, fertility went in another direction.

If you ask a baby boomer or honestly just look at their family, you’ll see the amount of babies being produced was much higher. The average  family size consisted of three or more children. Today’s ideal family size consist less than three.

Well, I guess that solves middle children syndrome.

There’s multiple factors that play a role in the shift of family sizes changing.

More women working outside the home, rise in educational levels and the idea of delaying marriage.

Economy and the rise in child costs are often reasons for the decline in fertility rates, but according to Pewresearch.com the most popular explanation for not wanting more children was due to medical reasons.

I think with any life situation comes the good and the bad.

The grass is always presumably greener on the other side when in all actuality it’s greener where you choose to water it.

You may be an only child who for many years longed for the experiences of a bigger family as shown in Cheaper by the Dozen. Until of course you’re, Mark Baker, who goes unnoticed and constantly wishes to be an only child.

Water where you’d like to see green and your garden will reap all the benefits, big or small.

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