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Being a Middle Child in a Big Family

Updated on March 8, 2021

Sibling pictures over the years

Me as a baby held by my older sister with my older brother looking on
Me as a baby held by my older sister with my older brother looking on
All five siblings on Easter morning when I was a toddler
All five siblings on Easter morning when I was a toddler
Mom and her six children taken in 1960
Mom and her six children taken in 1960
The last Christmas card photo taken of all eight siblings
The last Christmas card photo taken of all eight siblings
All eight siblings together at our youngest sister's wedding
All eight siblings together at our youngest sister's wedding
My parents with their eight children in 2004
My parents with their eight children in 2004
The five sisters taken in 2011
The five sisters taken in 2011

Life as a middle child

I was born on a December day in the 1950s. At the time I was born, I was child number five out of five. I was not the only girl, not the oldest girl, but I was the youngest girl. I remained the youngest girl for just over ten years. During those years, two younger brothers were added to our family. On a March day in the 1960s, my reign as youngest girl in the family ended with the birth of my sister Nancy.

Although my Mom was a stay-at-home Mom, most of us were raised in part by our older siblings. I was sandwiched between brothers with my older brother Butch two and a half years older than me and my younger brothers Mike and Pat just a little over two years younger and four and a half years younger. My nearest sister in age was my older sister Debbie who was five years older. Sisters Kathy and Suzie were almost eight and almost nine years older than me.

Being part of a big family was always fun and always involved chaos. I don't remember people staring when we went places but we didn't go as much as families do these days. We went to church every Sunday but, since it was a Catholic church, big families were the norm. I don't remember any of us ever having a friend spend the night but we often had other neighbor kids over to play. Playing was almost always outside and I don't think that hurt us at all.

My Dad was in the Army until I was in eighth grade so we moved a lot. Being part of a big family was probably best when we moved somewhere new because we already knew a lot of other kids. Being in the middle of a big family meant that there was always someone telling me what to do and how to do it. It meant wearing a lot of hand-me-downs and playing with toys that belonged to the family.

Unlike families with one or two kids, there's not a lot of individual attention in a big family. You are expected to do as you're told and behave. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. I'd say looking back that there was probably more attention when I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I didn't really excel at anything, wasn't athletic, was a good student until high school when I became a slacker. I sang in chorus in grade school, played in band in high school, and talked too much in school.

The only time I remember choosing what to eat for a meal was on my birthday, when I also got to choose what color frosting to have on my cake. I first had a bedroom to myself the last year I lived at home. I shared a room with my sister Debbie for most of the years I lived at home but never with my sister Nancy. Nancy slept in my parents' room until I moved out of the house, sleeping in a crib for way longer than most kids sleep in a crib.

I don't remember spending any significant time alone with either of my parents for most of my life. In high school, I would sometimes sit up late and talk with my Mom after I got home late at night. Mom would cook steaks and we'd eat and chat. I only remember being alone with my Dad a few times, usually when I was in trouble. I don't really remember much time spent with just one sibling either. Usually there were three or more of us together when we went anywhere or did anything.

Somewhere there may be photos of my parents with me as a baby and young child but I don't have them. I have one photo of my mother holding me and my younger brother with the other four siblings when I was about three years old. My favorite photo is one of me and my Mom taken at my First Communion when I was in grade school. My Mom was very camera-shy when I was younger. My Dad was usually the photographer. I've made it a point in recent years to have photos taken with one or both of my parents in the photos.

There are very few pictures with all eight of us siblings in them and even fewer with the eight of us and our parents. My oldest sister was in college when my youngest sister was born. I don't really know my oldest or youngest sisters very well. Suzie went off to college when I was pretty young and I married and moved away when Nancy was pretty young. My other two sisters live near my parents so I see them at least once a year.

We live all across the country. I'm on the east coast, two brothers and one sister in the west half of the country, and one sister in Hawaii. Only three of our siblings live close to my parents. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate the many sacrifices my parents made for us. You don't realize when sacrifice is until you have kids.

The best part of having so many siblings was always having someone to do something with. The worst part of having so many siblings was feeling like one of a crowd. I think that my parents did a great job raising us all. As adults, we like each other and all get along nearly all of the time. As adults, nearly all of us volunteer in various capacities, just as our parents have for our whole lives. As adults, we have all been gainfully employed all of our adult lives. Those of us who have children have raised our children very much the same way we were raised.

I wasn't the oldest, wasn't the youngest, wasn't the only girl or the oldest or youngest girl. I was just there, in the middle, number five out of eight. Being in the middle made me into the person I am today. I wouldn't trade how I grew up for anything.


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