I am the fourth of a family of five kids. Yes, when you ask me what my sibling situation is like, I will proudly answer that I have two big sisters, one big brother and one younger brother. No need for the comments, I’ve already heard them all – and yes, we are very sure that they all belong to my Mum and Dad. Just a look at us will unmistakeably show that we all possess slightly different versions of my Dad’s extremely recognisable nose. And even if we didn’t, it wouldn’t change the fact that we grew up together in the loud, anarchic household that every five-children family is bound to transform their daily environment in.
But beginning your life surrounded by four other people, whether you belong to the adorable six-year-old category or to the thirteen-year-old-and-too-cool-for-anything-else-than-black-makeup-and-an-angry-playlist-on-your-Ipod category, inevitably teaches you some valuable life skills. From a very early age, you learn to fight. For everything. From fighting for who will have the honour of taking the front seat when Mum drives us to the cinema to fighting for who will have the last Mars bar – because these people, of course, only produce packs of 6, and are probably not even slightly aware of the fact that they cause Mayhem for every parent who has to cut the last bar into five equal pieces. You fight for the type of cereal that should be bought for breakfast and you fight to be the best at school or in sports. Your fight is a daily one even, because every time that pizza is served for dinner, you will force your first portion down your throat as fast as possible to make sure that you reach second servings before everyone else. “Struggle to survive” is what my parents call it. And as you grow up, this same dinner table will be the place for many other fights – or should I call them never-ending heated political and social debates.
The fight is constant. But at least, when you are not fighting one another, you are campaigning with a lot more weight than single children when it comes to convincing your parents to get a dog.
A large family comes with its complications – and not just that you become used to being called by names that aren’t yours because your Dad just can’t get it right. Like every parent, I guess, mine tried to introduce revolutionary chore organisation through complex timetabling and equal distribution of tasks. You can’t blame them for trying to make life easier, but the initiative always miserably fell apart and we would merrily go back to shot-gunning the least detestable chores. Ultimately the least sharp of us would end up with washing the dishes or taking the bins out. Flawless organisation was – and is still – also required when it came to organising Christmas and summer holidays, because how do you bring together seven people that are all running around Europe? Yet somehow, we all end up tightly packed in the good old Chrysler Voyager on a yearly basis for a six-hour road trip to Brittany, our traditional family holiday destination.
Every large family has their own Chrysler Voyager. They are like the family pack of cars. You couldn’t count the number of hours that you’ve spent in them being carsick. It is with pride that I can claim that, although the hand brake doesn’t quite work and the windscreen wipers are a bit dodgy, ours has been going since 1999. That’s right.
But on the bright side, I strongly believe that my numerous siblings helped me develop my creative skills. Especially when Christmas is approaching, money is lacking and it becomes necessary to play “find six nice but extremely cheap presents”. Some of us are better at it than others – I did get a spatula once from my older brother. Similarly, creativeness came in handy whenever my Mum would suggest (or in my words, impose) that I’d take a look at the clothes my sister had outgrown instead of going shopping. The same clothes that my other sister was wearing in the playground in the 90s. Well, reader, I wore them. And not without style.
And it wasn’t just clothes – the same thing went with class notes, room decoration, books, phones, everything and anything. It’s like whenever my older siblings didn’t know what to do with something but didn’t quite want to throw it out, they’d give it to me and make it look like a nice gesture. Nice one.
At the time, I was thirteen years old and too cool for anything else than black make up and an angry playlist on my Ipod. In fact, I didn’t even have an Ipod – no parent in their right sense would buy five Ipods for their five kids, so we all had to stick with 60-euro MP3s. All I could think of was how outrageous it was that my brother was already allowed to be on Facebook and have a phone at age 11, when I had to fight for two more years to get the same rights. But today I realise that even though every time I come back from university I have to adapt to sharing Nutella again, I am glad that I have so many brothers and sisters. I’m glad that I regularly sit down with my laptop for an hour-long Skype conference between the seven of us, where no one understands a thing because everyone is shouting over everyone else’s voice. No, I wouldn’t give up my siblings for the world. Except maybe my younger brother. He’s irritating.