I grew up in an unusual family. First of all, there are 11 kids in my family, and yes, we all have the same parents (common question). Yes, they are still married (another common question). The other element besides size that surprises people is that we were all homeschooled since day one.
People are often fascinated by my family and how we did things. Family dinners were a big thing and we all mostly ate together most nights of the week around our 10-foot dinner table. Costco runs would make a small dent in the amount of food needed, but if my mom bought any “good” foods (see: pita chips, sourdough bread, pot-stickers, etc.) they would usually be gone within a few hours.
Privacy and individuality were constant struggles. With so many people around, privacy was rare, uninterrupted silence extinct. Individuality was a fight. Growing up with so many people around, you hear things on a regular basis such as, “There’s no way I will remember all of your names.” Another common occurrence was people bringing something up I had “said”, and then find out it was actually one of my siblings who said it. Although my parents strongly supported us being unique individuals, we were constantly grouped together.
In the end, I think that was a good thing; it forced my siblings and me to deeply contemplate who we are and what makes us each stand out. Now, most of us are in our twenties and teens and the patchwork of distinct, strong, different personalities we make up is beautiful to see. We are a diverse group of artists, analysts, thinkers, dreamers, athletes, introverts and extroverts.
My siblings are my greatest gift in this world. I have never loved another group of people as fiercely as I love Michael, Christina, Lisa, Amy, Alex, Lauren, Dani, Christian, Nick and Joey. If any of us is in trouble, we come together, talking it through for hours to come up with a solution. If anyone outside of our circle insults or hurts one of us, at least one of us will speak up and stand up for the one hurt. We have had many raw, honest conversations in smaller groups of two, three or four. All in all, there is an intense bond of sibling loyalty we share that makes us more than just flesh and blood relatives–we are a tribe.
One summer, I was at the ocean with my sister Lisa and brother Nicky. They were there to swim, while I was there to go on a beach walk and listen to music. I looked back at them running to the water as I turned to wave, and my heart soared with love. This poem immediately poured out. I read it aloud to my siblings on Thanksgiving two years later and I remember looking up to see that almost every one had tears in their eyes.
I am blessed beyond measure
With ten of the best people on this planet
As my siblings
Ten of the most genuine, funny, smart, beautiful souls
All abiding under one roof
Their personalities so different
All infinitely stunning
A priceless mosaic of
Quiet, beautiful depth
Strong, fiery passion
Silly, smiley, bouncing-off-the-walls joy
And loyal, loving calm
They are peacemakers and fire starters
They are stubborn and they are clever
They make me laugh like a child
Stomach sore, smile aching
They make me cry like the sentimental sap that I am
At their words and their stories and their brave vulnerabilities revealed
I have shown them exactly who I am
And they have accepted me
They have been brutally honest
They have shown me where I need to grow most
They have blown me away with their unique brilliance and their perfect beauty
And I know it like I know that I need air in my lungs to survive
That God hand-selected His best and His brightest
To stand beside me;
An overwhelming gift,
One that I will never deserve
I have never loved any one or anything more than these ten
I wish I could give them more than the meager little bits of love
From a heart that is mostly so selfish and so distracted
How did God make you all so beautiful?
And why did He allow me to call you mine forever?
There is nothing I treasure more
Than my precious ten-
The most perfect gift,
My unshakable foundation
My favorite people on this planet
My team, my best friends
My pack, my clan