Leah Di Paola
August 02, 2015 7:15 am

For anyone who grew up with a sibling or two, you probably understand the chaos of having brothers and sisters around.  I grew up with five siblings—four brothers, one sister—and we were also home-schooled. Instead of hanging with kids my own age in public school, I was constantly around my siblings, which made for a childhood that was equal parts hard, fun, and ridiculous. Although being with each other all day increased the likeliness of fights and arguments on a regular basis, it also proved incredibly valuable in learning certain life skills, which made the transition to becoming an adult and living in the real world a little easier. Here are a few things growing up with (many) siblings taught me about life.

Knowing how to share some things and keep other things separate is really important

One of the first things you’re forced to learn as a kid is sharing, and nowhere is that harder and more necessary than in a home with five other kids. As a child, you don’t want to share; you want that Silly Putty all to yourself! But growing up with many siblings meant I had no choice, so I got used to it early on. I learned that offering to share items was the easiest way to keep the peace and guarantee my mom’s sanity for the next ten minutes. I also learned to hide my really nice things and to never bring them out when younger kids were around, or they’d want it. But other than my special, coveted items, everything was fair game. From toys, to scooters, to special snacks (I’m lookin’ at you, gummy worms), if I wanted to enjoy it, I needed to make sure there was enough to go around.

Patience makes life better

From having to answer your younger siblings’ incessant questions, to waiting for each other’s soccer practices, to sitting in dentist offices while someone got a cavity filled, to finding a place to do school work at the theatre while someone rehearsed for a play, I learned that being mad about having to sit and wait for my siblings wasn’t going to do anything to make the time go by faster. So I learned to entertain myself and wait it out. Constantly asking, “MOM, can we leave yet?” didn’t work, so patience was drilled into me whether I liked it or not. And it turns out that it’s something that’s really useful in my adult life.

You can be friends with someone totally different than you.

Although all six of us came from the same two people, we couldn’t have been more different from each other. Because of the vast array of personality types, I learned early on that talking to one brother a certain way might make him laugh, while talking to another the same way would make him rage with anger. So I learned to adapt to the personality I was dealing with in order to keep the peace. (Well, most of the time.) But I learned early on that every personality is different, and you can’t treat people the exact same way and expect to get the exact same reaction. And I learned that just because you don’t react the same way to things doesn’t mean you can’t be friends.

How to take care of someone other than yourself

Having so many kids in one house means a kid or two would be overlooked at some point during the day. Never on purpose, mind you, but keeping track of six kids is a lot for one adult to do. So we became each other’s third parent, and being number three in the lineup meant I was often held responsible for the whereabouts of my younger brothers. “Where’s (insert name here)?” was a question asked of me multiple times on a daily basis. I hated having to keep track of my brothers when all I wanted was to be away from them, but it taught me to have responsibility for someone else, which is an important skill.

How to cook large quantities of food

This one’s pretty ridiculous, but true. Cooking for one was something I didn’t learn to do until I was 22, and to be honest, I still struggle with it. It’s simply easier to throw two full pounds of pasta in a pot of boiling water than it is to estimate just how much of that pasta you’ll eat now, how much you’ll eat later, and how much will be wasted if you put in too much. Attending parties or throwing parties of my own are easier because cooking for multiple amounts of people just comes naturally. It literally took me years to stop automatically doubling cookie recipes.

To this day, my siblings’ influence continues to guide and shape me. We went through a lot of difficult times together, and although we’re grown now and on our own separate life journeys, the experiences we had together influence how we look at the world. We don’t often see eye-to-eye, but that’s perfectly OK. I’m so glad they’re in my life now, even if I wasn’t always happy about sharing when I was little.

Related:
What my 9 brothers taught me about sisterhood
Being an older sibling is actually the best

[Image courtesy 20th Century Fox]
 

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