Column: Growing up with 16 siblings
By Islam Amir
The average American has about 2.5 children. But what is it like having 15 siblings?
Sometimes we have to make the most important decisions of our lives. For my parents, a big decision was the number of children they decided to have. Yes, I am one of the 16 children of my parents. I am proud to say that.
These are some of the typical responses I get when I reveal to someone that I have 15 siblings. “Do you know all their names?” “How big is your house?” “Do you all have the same mum and dad?” “Are there any twins?” And my favorite one is, “How often do you celebrate with birthday parties?”
First of all, growing up in such a large household has been the best experience of my life. I am usually around people and never feel lonely. We have even been able to form a soccer team.
I have the most annoying, loud, mean siblings, but they all grew up to be my best friends. As a girl coming from a very non-Western culture, I was given many responsibilities, from preparing family dishes to cleaning the house.
I learned independence, assertiveness, multitasking and other responsibilities from an early age. I think I was brought up in a very patriarchal society, but that benefited me a lot in terms of the real world.
My family values education, so today I am one of the 10 children attending college. Three of my brothers are attending middle school, and two sisters and one brother attend elementary school.
There are so many advantages to having so many siblings in college. We always have someone who can help us with our homework.
I admit there is a lot of sibling rivalry when it comes to who has better grades, who gets into the best schools and so on, but that is what pushes us to do well academically.
There are also some disadvantages. There is no such thing as privacy at all. The minute you try to hide in a room from everyone, there will always be that one sibling who is already hiding in that room.
Sometime I just want to escape from all the noise but I cannot. So I either find a closet to study in, or I go to the library.
There are no family vacations, so we usually separate into groups and go out to eat – that’s our vacation for the year. Trying to take a nice family photo together as adults always results in one or two sets of bunny ears. And it’s still funny, every single time.