You know you’re a large family when…

  1. At least two loads of laundry have to be done every day and the pile never disappears.
  2. Cooking anything in a single batch is a huge waste of time.
  3. You’re used to having at least four other people in the bathroom with you in the morning.
  4. Food in your house never expires or goes bad.
  5. Your family can fill in every volunteer position there is to be filled at your church.
  6. Your mom gets her own personal chair at the orthodontist’s office.
  7. You don’t own any clothing that hasn’t been worn by at least one of your siblings.
  8. There’s no point in lying about anything because your business is everybody’s business.
  9. You feel bad for kids with only one or no siblings because they don’t have anybody to play with.
  10. They first thing people ask when they meet you is, “Oh, is your family Catholic?”
  11. You leave the house 40 minutes early, because your mom has to drop kids off at four different schools.
  12. People are amazed that your parents haven’t lost their minds…or any of their kids.
  13. Family vacations consist only of going to see Grandma twice a year.
  14. People always think there’s a party at your house because your driveway is always full of cars.
  15. People ask your parents, “Are they all yours?!”
  16. Your family’s at the park and someone asks to join your play group.
  17. You have to wait for a movie to make it to the dollar theater before you go see it.
  18. Your car’s so big you can spot it across Disney World’s parking lot.
  19. Dinner out means eating at Taco Bell.
  20. You take up an entire pew at church.

How do you recognize your family as being large?

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A Father of 600 Children?

Most of the issues I’ve discussed have concerned families of four to twenty children. But David Gollancz has a new concern of his own: That he may have as many as 599 siblings. Gollancz is one of many children born mostly likely with thanks to sperm donations by Austrian scientist and fertility clinic owner Bertold Weisner.

Scientist and sperm donor Bertold Weisner is believed to have donated enough sperm to his own fertility clinic to help the conception of up to 600 babies.

Weisner operated a fertility clinic in London with his wife, Mary Barton back in the 1940s. During this time, 1500 babies were conceived through sperm donations at this clinic. It’s believed that up to two-thirds of the donations were by Weisner. According to The Huffington Post, Weisner was one of only a few learned men whose sperm were given out to families trying to conceive throught the Barton Clinic. This was an attempt to pass along “intelligent genes” to future generations.

 Donating limitlessly is no longer permitted due to the fear that half-siblings may procreate, causing children to be born with birth defects, diseases, or other unwanted genetic conditions. In 1990 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act set regulations for fertility clinics to only allow donors to provide enough sperm to help ten families develop. But in the U.S., there are still no set laws, although sperm banks and clinics can set their own regulations for donor anonymity and number of babies conceived per donor.

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John Brown: Abolitionist, Father

John Brown (1800-1859)

I’ve discussed some modern large families, but John Brown is one a historical figure who also liked to procreate. Between two wives, the abolitionist and leader of the failed attempt to raid Harpers Ferry, Virginia (at the time; Harpers Ferry is now a part of West Virginia), had 19 children. Of course, that was back in the 1800s, so not all of the children lived to adulthood and having many children wasn’t uncommon for this reason. I’ve created a timeline courtesy of dipity.com showing the birth dates of John Brown’s many children. Brown was eventually executed for “committing treason agianst the Commonwealth of Virginia” on December 2, 1859 in Charles Town, Virginia. Some of Brown’s sons and daughters helped further the causes for the abolitionist movement and the Civil War.

I’m experiencing trouble getting my timeline embedded to this blog, so please visit it here.

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“There is no delight in owning anything unshared.”

–Seneca
 

Growing up with multiple siblings instills many virtues in a child. One of the most important of these is the ability to share. Not that I think only children are incapable of sharing, but I feel as if it comes so much more naturally to kids with many siblings. They grow up learning that they can’t have everything they want when they want it, including Mommy and Daddy’s attention. So from toys to clothing to bedrooms, in a large family, it’s probably shared. I asked Elizabeth Lyn, a child of five (like myself), how she felt having to share everything growing up. “I appreciate that my parents made me and my four siblings share things. It really taught us what was important in life. I didn’t need brand new clothes when my older sister’s hand-me-downs were still in good condition…Plus, who really needs that much junk around their house?” Elizabeth also noted that sharing helped her to prioritize her life. Sharing has encouraged her to work hard to develop real relationships and has kept her from becoming materialistic. I think she makes a good point that when we avoid focusing on materialism, we can focus more on the people and experiences in our lives. Spain agrees. The Action Against Hunger Spain activist group came up with an experiment to see whethr or not kids would share when faced with the dilemma of having food, while the person next to you has none. This resonates to the real-world issue of millions of people going hungry everyday, while others throw out buckets of food. When you’re raised to share it’s easier to recognize the inequalities in the world.

I appreciate when TV shows and other forms of media demonstrate sharing in a positive light. I think it’s easier to learn how to share when you see the positive impacts sharing has on others. I caught on through advertising that not sharing was emphasized to help sell products. For example, the poor Trix Rabbit never gets to eat any Trix cereal because “Trix are for kids.”

But then again, we see other advertisements that glorify sharing.

Of course, nobody knows how to share better than our good friends at Sesame Street. So if you’re ever feeling like you’ve been spoiled rotten and need a reality check, stop by and take a lesson from these happy critters:

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Obama Adviser Argued: Kids from Big Families Have Lower IQs

 “Wtf?!” was my first reaction upon reading Terence P.Jeffrey’s headline on cnsnews.com. It’s about how Obama’s top science advisor, John P. Holdren, believes that children from larger families have lower IQs. Now, my siblings and I have never had our IQs tested, so I can’t say from personal experience that this belief isn’t true. And I personally don’t believe that having a high IQ necessarily makes a person smarter or a more productive member of society. However, I can say that the context in which Holdren’s statements regarding large families and low IQs were made, were meant to suggest that people with low IQs are worthless, unproductive members of society. And I’d like to put a halt to that statement right there. (And by reading through the comments left on this article, I can tell that other members of large families feel the same way.)

In the words of Holdren and his co-authors, Paul and Anne Ehrlich: “It surely is no accident that so many of  the most successful individuals are first or only children; nor that  children of large families (particularly with more than four children),  whatever their economic status, on the average perform less well in  school and show lower I.Q. scores than their peers from small families.” The question I’d like to have answered is, honestly, what does an IQ score have anything to do with how many siblings a person has? How is knowing “which item doesn’t fit in the rest” affected by the number of kids your mom gave birth to? I could almost say that I agree with the thought that a family with fewer resources may produce less productive children (in some instances; I recognize that I’m generalizing and this doesn’t pertain to everybody), but I absolutely disagree with the thought that having four or more children is what causes lower IQ scores. There are some large families out there that are very wealthy and can afford to put all the best resources and care into their kids. And there are some parents who only have one or two children that they can’t afford to take care of and are raised with sub-par educations and expectations.

That being said, I’d like to bring up a different version of this debate. Large families don’t automatically produce low-IQ children. Another way to twist these beliefs are to say that people with lower IQs tend to have and raise more children that then turn out to be like their parents. So, to turn this irritation into something a little more laughable, I’d like you to watch the first 4 minutes of the movie, Idiocracy, a 2007 Twentieth Century Fox production, starring Luke Wilson. This satiric film, directed by Mike Judge, mocks the human race by demonstrating how stupid we’ve become as a whole, by the year 2505. The first few minutes of the movie explain how the vicious cylce of stupidity got started.

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Siblings Raising Siblings

This is a strange concept to me because my siblings and I are all within about two years of each other, so we very much grew up together. But as I’ve been keeping up with some of these other large families, I’ve realized that there are many children spread over many years. Parents are still having babies as their older children are graduating high school, going off to college, and starting families of their own. And while it may not be such a big deal to get stuck baby-sitting your younger siblings every time your parents want or need to go somewhere without kids, it does get old. It’s a serious hinder to one’s social life. The constant care, clean up, monitoring really forces some older kids to grow up quicker and miss out on many of the fun things in life that come from bonding with friends your own age. Now, in this case it’s a nuisance.

But sometimes kids are forced into this situation by more than just really fertile parents. As Heather Won Tesoriero mentions in her TIME Magazine article Families: Siblings Raising Siblings, about two million children in America are forced into care by older siblings due to the death (or other serious issues) of both parents. Check out some personal stories of how these ordinary people went from being siblings to parents. It can be very difficult, especially if there isn’t a huge age gap between the siblings. But it seems most logical to stay together and try to reform the family after disaster to the parents, despite the difficulties that come along with it.

Party of Five siblings Owen (baby), Bailey, Charlie, Julia, and Claudia try to lead normal lives after the death of there parents.

The 90s FOX TV series “Party of Five” almost glamorized the notion of siblings learning to live and cope after the loss of their parents. The show follows a family of five kids (ages 24, 16, 15, 11, and 1) who struggle to make ends meet and end up facing the challenges of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and other issues that follow the loss of parental authority figures.

The law regarding sibling adoptions: When trying to adopt a younger sibling, the sibling attempting to assume the role of parent must be able to show that they are mature enough and their lives are stable enough to raise a child. You must also have a permanent residence and enough of an income to take care of yourself and your sibling(s). Courts and social workers will pay close attention to your lifestyle to determine if you are fit to be a parent. You should be prepared to answer questions like these: Who will watch your sibling while you’re at work? How will you respond to your sibling, if they defy you? What kind of discipline will you implement as head of the household? etc. These kinds of questions are meant to assess your maturity level and parenting capabilities. Laws on adoptions vary from state to state, so try to contact a lawyer that specializes in child custody cases to increase the chances of keeping your family together.

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The Odds of Being Twins

With many large familes, you’re almost guarunteed to have at least one set of multiples. In my family’s case, we have a set of twin boys: Jake and John. Now age 19, no doctor or OBGYN was able to tell my parents whether they were identical or fraternal twins.

John (left) and Jake circa age 4

Jake and John (left), age 18

                                                                                     

How twins are born: The simple story is that twins are either monozygotic, which means they form from one zygote (initial cell, or egg, that is the result of sexual reproduction) and are therefore identical. Or, they could be dizygotic, which means that each twin formed from their zygotes, which were fertilized by two different sperm. In the U.S., there are only 33 twin births for every 1,000 singleton (or single child) births.

Because a woman’s uterus is only so big, twins are rarely carried for the full 40 weeks of the pregnancy, as Jake and John were. Most twins are considered to be full term at or befroe 37 weeks. Twins tend to come out smaller (average weight is 5.5 lbs) and are more at risk to be born premature, than singletons. Pamela Prindle Fierro describes how preparing for potential complications can better protect the mother and fetuses.

Isbac Pacunda and his father, Leonidas. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Not to scare anyone currently carrying twins, but one in 500,000 births will result in one baby absorbing its twin, while in the womb. This can sometimes happen because one twin becomes parasitic to the other, living off of its nutrients. This is the case with one Peruvian child, who’s parasitic twin lives inside him, feeding off of his blood supply.

Another incredible twin statistic? The Durrant family has also achieved the status of being 1 in 500,000. Jamie Pyatt tells the story of how one family has managed to have two sets of female twins. Here’s the crazy part: Within both sets of twins, one has white skin, red hair and blue eyes like their mother, and the other twin has black hair and skin like their father.

And sometimes being a twin has even more perks. ABC Nightline reporter Juju Chang has done plenty of research on the phenomene of “Twin-Tuition”. Here we meet psychic twins who have reportedly predicted many things, including the 9/11 attacks and natural disasters. Chang also delves into some research on telepathic bonds between twins. I see how little interaction my twin brothers need to get their point or message across to eachother, although they’d never admit to sharing such an intimate connection. So twins, tell us, are you able to finish your twin’s sentences? And is it telepathy, or do you just owe it to knowing them so incredibly well…afterall, you have known eachother your entire lives.

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