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Large families inevitably achieve close bonds

Dec. 8, 2016. It was cold outside my house, and I’m sitting in my room doing eighth grade homework. My dad walked in, and I began to tell him to get out before I saw the look on his face.

He was smiling and happy, but his eyes glinted with a panic I’ve only seen when he is too scared to tell someone a chilling truth. He sat down on my bed and said I was going to have a little brother. A grin cracked across my face. I felt ecstatic, but inside I was terrified.

How did I gain three siblings in six months, and how do I deal with them?

The summer after seventh grade, my parents got a long overdue divorce. Since the need for the split was critical, they both found love soon after they finalized their separation. My dad met Adrienne in June. She had two little girls with sunshine hair trailing her the first time I saw her: 2-year-old Tegan and 5-year-old Isla.

I walked into my 11-year-old brother Koda’s room the day I met them and sat on his bed. We couldn’t speak to each other. We were used to constant attention. How were we supposed to learn to share that? Three and a half years later, we’ve figured it out.

I love family dinners in my household. Every day at about 6 p.m., my phone dings with the same text from Adrienne: “Dinner’s ready.” As I walk out of my room, my brother and I meet by the stairs, toss our daily insults to each other, laugh and walk upstairs to the kitchen.

As the door that separates the downstairs from the upstairs opens, chaos ensues. Music blares, and Beckett, my baby brother, and Tegan zoom by. Isla yells at Tegan for hitting her. My dad stands by the sink, singing along to our Alexa. Adrienne is making plates and yelling at the girls to sit down before shooting a quick “hi” in my direction. We walk to the dining room, as Beckett and Tegan rush past with Adrienne chasing them in hot pursuit.

We get ourselves situated five minutes later and then sit together for the first time in the day. Beckett shows us new animal noises he learned at daycare, and all of us go into a fit mimicking him for 15 minutes, filling the house with a lion’s roar of laughter. Isla and Tegan rave about school, and Koda talks about what injuries he gave and received at football practice that day, proudly showing off his bruises. After-dinner food covers the table, and the kids race to the television, leaving an exasperated Adrienne to take plates to the sink.

With a huge family, one gets used to a certain level of messiness. The carpet, vacuumed in the morning, somehow has crumbs again; the dishes are back in the dishwasher two hours later. Somehow, you walk through the hallway and always step on a toy. The constant upkeep never stops, and, sometimes, frustrations and tensions rise higher than any of us can handle.

The fighting that comes from these aspects of large families is like a forest fire. It starts with sharp sparking snaps at one another or a blow in someone’s direction. But when the emotions escalate, they explode with no warning. The snapping turns into yelling, and the huffs turn into slammed doors. We isolate ourselves in the farthest corners of the house to try to dim the inferno of our anger. When the fire is put out and the house is quiet, boredom creeps up our backs as the adrenaline rush dies and we become uncomfortable with the silence. Sitting on our beds fuming about the dishes, we wonder if the fight is even worth not getting to talk to one another. So, one by one, we end up creeping out of our rooms with apologetic eyes. One by one, we end up back at the same level of loud chaotic energy.

Regardless of initial hesitations about bonding, blended families become close. Too close to not talk to each other for longer than 15 minutes.

“I love family dinners in my household. Every day at about 6 p.m., my phone dings with the same text from Adrienne: “Dinner’s ready.” As I walk out of my room, my brother and I meet by the stairs, toss our daily insults to each other, laugh and walk upstairs to the kitchen.”

It was difficult at first: not knowing if I could sit in a certain seat or awkwardly moving around the kitchen, trying not to bother anyone. Over time, however, a mountain of kids on the couch becomes a norm, and being close to everyone in the kitchen doesn’t feel weird.

I love my big family: the way we pile in our living room on movie nights, the way we help carry kids to bed when they pass out and the way we laugh for hours together. Even if we’re separate in my home, we’re still together. Sometimes I have to be the first one to reach out to them, and sometimes they do, but the love and desire to be near to each other is always there.

What do you love the most about your siblings? Let us know in the comments below. 

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