I immediately regretted playing it out loud.
There was no voice, only rustling around. Then we heard shrieking and screaming. It sounded like she was in a terrible, wild place, sending a message but unable to speak.
Then we remembered: Her phone is here. The baby called us from it. The scary place is our house.
This is life in a big family.
But now that the July vacation is over (nine kids 2,000 miles in a 15-passenger van) and we are getting ready for school (two at Benedictine College, two at the Benedictine high school, four in home school, one underfoot) we 11 Hoopeses are as close as we have ever been, so I thought it the ideal time to ask the question: “What do you like about being in a large family?”
Here are the answers I got, lightly edited. (Disclaimer: This post is in no way meant to denigrate the experience of families of other sizes!)
Why do you like being in a large family?
“I like being in a big family because you always have someone to play with.”
“I like being in a big family because the inside family jokes aren’t always about you.”
“I like our family because if you don’t get along with one sibling, there are always lots of others to try.”
“In a large family, there are always plenty of people to help you clean up.”
“It’s good because if you pretend to build a spaceship or some other vehicle, there are always people to help you.”
“In a big family you are forced to live more generously.”
“You have to find yourself in the chaos – you are forced to make your voice heard above the din.”
“I love watching movies about big, happy families. You watch it and think about how fun a big family would be and then you remember: I also have a big family! And then your big family is really great for a few hours.”
“I love having a really great roommate.”
“It’s good to have a big family, because when you go to a museum or a zoo, you get to hear more thoughts about the significance of what you’re seeing.”
“Having a big family makes you more open-minded about other people.”
“In a big family, someone always has your back.”
“Being in a big family makes you feel more confident in who you are – because you are validated by your siblings, young and old.”
“When you go somewhere in public, you feel proud and strong.”
“Being in a big family means cooking for many people and driving large vehicles is not intimidating.”
“It forces you to live more practically and simply.”
“It’s just more fun, because interacting with people beats being entertained by a screen any day.”
“Would you rather live in a small family?” I asked. Several hands shot up beside grinning faces. Then a small voice answered: “Sometimes I would. But I would still want all my brothers and sisters to be here if I did.”