I come from a large family and today as I sat down I remembered some of my experiences being part of a large family and if you are like me you will appreciate some of the woes we experienced, ranging from hilarious to just plain sad. If you came from such a family please walk down memory lane with me and if you are an only child or from a family with fewer kids see what you missed.
- Everybody talks loudly
There are already so many of you meaning you have to be loud if you have any hope of your parent hearing you. This is especially, during meal times or when everyone is trying to present their various needs to the parents. Ever found yourself talking louder than everyone else when it is absolutely unnecessary only to have everyone stare at you wondering where is the fire? It is often quite embarrassing but old habits die hard right?
- Forget about any peace and quiet
Now in a crowded two-bedroom house like ours which had two parents, three aunties and ten children, peace and quiet was a mirage. Somebody would be angrily scolding another, another pair would be chatting animatedly, someone would think of singing while another was breaking plates and cups in the kitchen.
Your mum would probably be complaining about her lazy children for the umpteenth time while two of your siblings will be walking in and out with their entourage of friends. But hasn’t that worked out for you in the long run? I bet you can sleep through anything at any time.
- Eating Fast
Whenever I sit down with my friends for nyama choma or any other meal, they marvel at my ability to eat very fast. I can eat while standing as well, something that most people cannot do. We had to learn survival tactics or you would be left out of everything. I remember my brother used to go and switch off the main lights when ugali was served and pretend that there was a power disruption and by the time you found candles he would be well ahead of everyone else.
When my dad discovered this trick he was unable to beat him because he was torn between being angry with his sheer wickedness or congratulate him for his creativity. You also had to be in time for supper or lunch as well. Being five minutes late meant that you had to wait until the next meal which could be torturous.
- Travelling was a headache
Travelling was a noisy affair with our parents trying to make sure everybody had packed everything they needed for our trip to our rural home. It was the replay of the Home Alone movie as being left behind was a real possibility. Once you were on the bus, only our parents would sit down the rest of us would have to start for about eight hours. There were exceptions when our parents chanced upon some kind of windfall and they would allow the younger ones to have their own seats and carry the youngest on their laps. One soda would be fairly shared among several of us in cups and each one would have a mandazi.
Only our first born got the chance to wear new clothes Huh! Does he even realize how lucky he was? The rest of us had to make do with clothes that had seen better days and better patches. The culture of receiving used items was not just reserved for clothes but was also done with school uniforms,books, toys, shoes, suitcases, beddings and so on.
- Alone time
Seeking for some alone time in a crowded house is akin to looking for a needle in haystack. There were simply no empty rooms and you just had to use the living room like everybody else. Privacy was also a foreign word in the house and having your own room is something you only heard from friends or experienced when you visited them in their houses.
- Endless queue to the bathroom
There was always a line to use the bathroom especially in the morning and once you got to use the coveted space, someone would be pounding on the door to kick you out barely five minutes after you had stepped in.
- Forget about sleepovers
We never got to invite our friends for a sleepover because the sleeping arrangements were funny at best. Granted, we did have double deckers in the bedroom but there were three or four people on each with two facing the opposite directing. Some would be sprawled in the living room and bedroom floors on mattresses. Inviting more people who needed to sleep was therefore never in the cards.
Despite all of the above challenges, large families are just the best because you are hardly ever bored and the different characters ensure that the house is always warm with laughter.