After raising a single child for 7 years, then having two in 14 months, then waiting four years to add one more as well as finish it off with the recommended age gap of two years I feel I have parented a stack of different kid combinations. During the last year I have noticed kids from large families do a lot of things well. Brilliantly in fact………..
1. Consume Food: They have to fight for their share and they do it well. If you’re serving something they like they eat like no tomorrow at meal times. Don’t worry if you forget snacks – they’ll get it themselves. They shovel food down their holes at a rapid rate because there is rarely leftovers. They’ll pile their plates higher than a football player in case they miss out on seconds. A waste of time – seconds don’t exist if the chow is good. Boarding school dining tables have nothing on big family ones.
2. Get Lost: Most kids freak the hell out when lost in a shopping centre or park. Not these kids. They’ll happily trot off with whoever locates them to the lost and found desk without tears or any shred of concern. They’ll sit amongst the lost wallets at the customer service desk and tell the staff member their name, age and what they ate for breakfast. When their traumatised parent turns up to retrieve them they’ll be slightly annoyed. Another 5 minutes would have seen them land their second lolly pop for bravery. Which would be good and well had they not run off in the first place.
3. Talk: For the love of God they don’t shut up when given the half the chance. They’ll tell you their life story and all the families dirty little secrets. It’s because they have to fight for attention at home, and when they get undivided one on one time they know how to use it. They talk excessively loudly in order to be heard. They’ll chew your ear off, about nothing in particular. Try to listen and look intrigued. The poor dears are attention deprived.
4. Scam Extended Play Dates: They have the ability to get themselves invited to play dates, often seeking out single or two child families because they are quieter. Once there they don’t want to go home, and wait with bated breath for the 10am three hour play date to turn into a dinner party. They’ll be the best guests you’ve ever had. Well mannered, helpful and grateful. They’ll praise your cooking and help with their friends younger siblings. You’ll think their parents have bred the perfect child. They haven’t – they’re just avoiding going home and know every trick in the book to extend their visit.
5. Take Care of Themselves: These kids can make toast, get cereal and get dressed from 12 months of age. They pack their school bags, lunch and know how to use a washing machine. They do homework on their own with little help. They ask for things at shops, order for themselves at restaurants and take phone messages. If they had a kids version of Survivor kids from big families would win hands down and with ease – self survival is second nature.
6. Stick Up For Each Other: They’re a tight knit bunch. They can hate one another and pull hair from each other’s heads till they are bald, but if you’re friends with one and dislike one of their siblings keep it to yourself. In the space of half an hour I saw 2 of my daughters almost draw blood on each other, then sit down and plot the demise of a kid at school who was picking on one of them. If you value your life like the whole family. If not may the force be with you, you’re going to need it.
7. Share: In a big family there’s no such thing as “mine” – everything is “ours” – and everyone else’s. They’ll share food, lounges, beds, toys, undies and clothing. They’d give you the shirt off their back and their last bite of chocolate if you asked. They think nothing of grabbing something without asking and if faced with Precious Pansy who doesn’t want them touching her Nintendo DS look at her like she has two heads. Not sharing doesn’t exist in their world. The Pansy’s of the universe don’t survive in their circles, she’s a selfish freak.
8. Play Together: Their parents are so flat out with their own tribe play dates are like a full night sleep – few and far between. These kids learn fast to play with each other and create their own fun. They fight like all siblings but make up quickly. Brothers will dress up in whatever their sisters kit them out in and girls will play trucks and cars. They will create their own games and it’s rare to hear “I’m bored” -probably because their backyard has more action than the local park.
9. They Accept Stuff Other Kids Wouldn’t: Crust for a sandwich? Normal. No clean undies or socks? Grab your siblings or turn them inside out. Wore school uniform on a mufti day? I’m starting a new trend. Mum dropped me to school on a pupil free day? At least I get 5 minutes peace till she realises and comes back. They are tough and resilient.
10. Get “The Look” Understood Early: Every parent has the look. It’s the “wait till I get you home or out of public viewing because you are going to COP IT big time. You’ll never see a big family parents kid misbehave and them try and reason with the kid. “Oh Johnny that behaviour is not acceptable and please explain to me why? Let’s discuss and find flowers and we will deal with apologising to the kids head you almost severed over there when we have got to the root of your behaviour.” They’ll just get the look and pull into line – rapidly. Large family parents can’t discipline every 2.4 seconds and the kids know it. The look is learnt from as young as 22 months. My daughter got it this week.