I am the oldest of six children. Growing up in a large family is interesting, sometimes it’s fun, other times it’s challenging, and then there are times when it is just frustrating. But overall I would say it was pretty fun.
My parents started having children a year after they got married. That’s how my mom remembers how long she has been married because she asks me how old I am and then adds one year. I have four sisters and a brother, Christen, Samantha, Cassandra, Richard (Juji) and Bonnie. There are 11 years between my youngest sister and I.
Growing up in the Kipker house was constant chaos. There was always someone running around the house yelling, someone fighting over who got to take the next shower, who got to pick the next TV show or which Power Ranger we got to be. But when I say chaos, I don’t mean that in a bad way. Chaos was what we were used to. With that many kids it’s only expected that we would live in a constant state of craziness.
My mom is the epitome of a great mom. She devoted her life to us. She still does even though we are all adults and have children of our own. I honestly don’t know how she survived with all of us. Hell, I barely survive with just two kids. I couldn’t imagine adding four more to the Hightree house! My parents have always been there for us and taught us to be kind individuals, and independent and responsible adults.
My siblings and I are both alike and different at the same time. Christen is the quiet book worm, Sam is the responsible college graduate, Cassy is the no-nonsense hilarious one, Juji is the go-getter, Bonnie is the whimsical fly by the seat of her pants one and then there’s the mom of the group, Me. For the most part we have all been very close. As siblings we fight and bicker but have always come back together.
Being the oldest also comes with a lot of pressure. You are the first one, you are the guinea pig so to speak. I feel like raising me was kind of like a trial and error of what worked and what didn’t work. My parents were always stricter with me than my other siblings because they were testing the waters to see how they should react to certain situations. They also allowed me to do things that my siblings never got to do because they had to see the situation firsthand before making an informed decision.
Having a lot of siblings means you also never get lonely, whether you like it or not. Since we are all two years apart you basically have a built-in best friend. You really have no choice but to spend time with your closest sibling because at times they were the person that you had the most in common with. I can generally text my siblings and say “Hey, what are you doing? Wanna hang out?” and at least one of them is available. We are also there to help each other out. I think all of us have babysat each other’s children at least a hundred times. Well, maybe not my brother but that’s because he prefers dogs over babies.
It also means that you probably have to share a room with at least one of your sisters. For a long time I shared a room with Christen. I went through the phase of splitting the room down the middle and not allowing her on my side. She went through the phase of stealing my stuff and putting her initials on them so that mom and dad would think they were hers. But ultimately, I think sharing a room made us closer. As adults we can basically talk about anything. I’d like to think she enjoys my company like I enjoy hers.
Large families also mean large extended families. Within 15 years my sisters and I have given my parents 14 grandchildren. So the same rings true for our children. They basically have built-in best friends with their cousins and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When our family gets together, we have anywhere from 25 to 30 people in the same place. And that’s just my siblings, parents, and our families. It can be overwhelming but that’s what we are used to.
I always joked that I wanted to be an only child so that my parents could give me all the attention but truthfully, I think I would be a completely different person than I am today if that were the case. Growing up in a big family has shown me patience and grace, and how to stand out in a crowd. Because let’s be real, when there are six of you, you have to learn how to stand out in order to not be lost in the chaos of life.
I’m glad my parents decided to keep having children after they had me. I’m glad we all have such a great relationship, and I will treasure it for the rest of my life. It was touch and go for a while when I was a teenager because my sister, whom I will not name again, kept stealing my things. Luckily, she grew out of that stage pretty quickly, and I got my Hanson CD back.
Steph Hightree is a hot mess mom who is fueled by stress and too much caffeine. She is a Three Rivers native who talks about the good, the bad, and well, everything else about parenthood.
Any views or opinions expressed in “#MomLife” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.