… you are from a large family.
I am thrilled to have Clare Bennett writing for us today – about coming from a large family. Clare is one of the voices of The Midult and is to my mind one of the funniest writers knocking about at the moment; I’ve had to eviscerate beauty freebie cupboard to persuade her to do this.
I am the fourth child of five. Three boys, two girls. Raising this number of children is basically like crowd control rather than the Sound of Music – I never actually heard my mother say, ‘Keep them clean, keep them alive,’ out loud, but she was probably thinking it.
1 You do not sleep.
I shared a room with my younger brother when we were little and he would do stupid, noisy things like fall out of bed, screaming. When I was a teenager, my older brothers would set an alarm for 4am and leave it hidden in my room, so not only would it wake me up, I’d have to get up and find it to turn it off. They would also forget their keys, go out and get pissed and then throw stones at my window to wake me up and let them in. Or just come in while I was sleeping and have conversations. No wonder I’m still always tired.
2 Having a lot of brothers demystifies boys.
When I was eleven, I started at an all-girls school. They were bewitched by boys. ‘But they pee with the door open and watch sport on TV all summer,’ I tried to explain, ‘and that’s literally it.’ No one listened.
3 You will not survive without a sense of humour
Once you have experienced having cold water spat at you while you are in the bath/ had your favourite film taped over for the Grand Prix/ been laughed at for crying when your pet tortoise died – you learn how to let the small stuff go.
4 Church is the funniest place on earth
I have never laughed like I have laughed in church with my siblings. Laughed to the point of seeing white spots flashing before my eyes. Crippling, agonising, head-exploding laughter made a billion times worse because you have to suppress it. Also made worse (or in a perverse way, even better) by our mother always being absolutely furious. We even got separated once and made to sit in different pews. I was about 22.
5 You don’t get into trouble for things other people do.
No one ever got into trouble for smoking. My parents just could not be arsed to be angry about it again and again and again. Although I think they did object when my brothers invited one of our septuagenarian babysitters to watch Scarface with them. Fortunately she was sewing at the same time, so I don’t think she saw Angel Fernández get his head chain-sawed off.
6 Don’t call for your mother in the night
After years and years and years of being woken in the night, my mother reached the stage where she really needed to see A LOT of blood or fire or bone sticking through skin to justify being woken up. We have repeatedly told her that it’s her fault for having had too many children and she violently agrees.
7 Winning games is not important
It’s not even the taking part – it’s the not having an actual physical fight over it that’s the achievement.
8 Too many phone calls
The problem with having a problem in a large family is the amount of time you then spend on the phone. Everyone has to ring everyone. And then report back to someone – usually my sister. There’s no point emailing about a problem – it descends into sarcasm way too quickly.
9 Everyone has an opinion
Everyone has an opinion on everyone else and likes to make that opinion known. My mother used to say my youngest brother had six opinionated parents instead of two. And then we’d all get cross and give our opinion on why we were cross.
10 Your love life becomes other people’s sport
When my eldest brother had his girlfriend to stay over for the first time, my little brother and I hid our plastic dinosaurs in her bed as a nice surprise. When a potential suitor turned up at our front door to see our sister, my little brother informed him that she was ‘ON THE LOO.’ A boy called Peter rang me when I was 15 and I was mocked for it for four ACTUAL years. Apologies to anyone who ever tried to go out with any of us – especially the ones who succeeded.