PICTURED ABOVE // The Ryan sisters, Annabelle, Mary Rae, Sarah, Beth, Victoria, right before boarding a cruise in London, United Kingdom in 2017. Photo provided by Sarah Ryan.
According to The World Factbook, United States families have an average of 1.87 children per household. Growing up in a relatively large-size family with more siblings is still a rare experience. All coming from large families, three students from the Upper School share their sides of the story.
Junior Charlotte Benedict and her sisters Lizzie, a senior, and freshman twins, Louisa and Tess, currently attend Hockaday. Their oldest sister, alumna Anna Kate ‘16, currently attends Washington and Lee University.
For Charlotte, having four siblings—all being sisters—brings her more than just the joy their company. Because of their small age gap, the sisters are able to connect closely with each other, making their time together more enjoyable.
“When one person has a friend coming over, we all hang out together, since we are so close in age,” Benedict explained.
Because they are only one year apart, Charlotte and Lizzie share a particularly strong connection. The sisters enjoy similar hobbies. Both sisters are very active athletes, and they bond through their love of sports.
“Since Lizzie is so active, I became more competitive because I’m compared to her a lot. It makes me want to push myself,” Charlotte said. Both sisters play with the varsity lacrosse team.
The bond in Benedict’s family is not only reflected by the siblings’ connection, but is also present in their relationship with their parents. Although she has four siblings, Charlotte hardly feels neglected by her parents.
“I have a close relationship with both of my parents,” Charlotte said. “My mom has to divide her attention within five people and it’s not like what it would be if there’s only two of us, but she really makes sure that everyone is doing well. She’s very caring and observant, and always notices when someone’s not feeling okay.”
As a matter of fact, although maintaining a good balance often occupies a lot of their parents’ time, the family never passes up the chance of creating memories together. For instance, sit-down dinners are an essential part of the day. Events like this have become especially enjoyable and memorable for the children.
“This is one thing I really like about my family. Even though they are really busy, they still make the effort to have that part of the day and make it happen,” Charlotte said.
For sophomore Mary Gum, having a small age difference with her sisters means that she is able to form a stronger relationship with her family. Mary has three sisters who attend Hockaday: junior JoJo, eighth grader Anna and fifth grader Lily. Besides her three sisters, Mary also has two younger brothers who are currently enrolled in the third and fourth grade at the St. Mark’s School of Texas.
For the Gum family, having six children makes their life more colorful. Participating in various engaging events, the family bond is constantly reinforced by their shared memories, and by engaging in such events, the siblings are also able to bond with each other.
For instance, the Gum family has a unique way of celebrating the holidays.
“Every year for Easter, my family goes to Tulsa. On Easter morning, the three oldest kids usually hide the eggs for the younger siblings to find,” Mary said.
Besides enjoying the company of her family, Mary’s daily life is usually very busy, especially on the weekends. “It’s either someone has a soccer game or a dance. Something is always going on and we are always busy,” she said.
Nevertheless, the family still has their own way of organizing life with six children. According to Mary, in addition to needing flexibility within their schedules, an abundance of calendars and programming contributes to help handle schedule conflicts in her house.
“My mom has a big calendar that she keeps all of our activities on. This way everyone knows what is going on that day and when my mom might be available to take us somewhere,” Mary said.
As a matter of fact, growing up in a large family has contributed to Mary’s acquisition of valuable life experiences, especially with relationship skills. According to her, having to work with a lot of people helps her to gain patience and to practice controlling a chaotic situation.
“I think having a big family helps me to stay calm in that sort of situation and helps me to be in charge,” Gum said. “We all like to do a lot of different things, but we always support each other as well.”
Life with four sisters is never dull for junior Sarah Ryan. Being the second oldest child of the family, Sarah has gained more patience by taking care of her younger siblings.
“Having more siblings gives me more patience. Dealing with little kids makes me learn how to treat children, and I feel like I’m good at that,” Sarah said.
Three Ryan sisters attend Hockaday. Beth, a senior, is the oldest with Sarah falling one year behind. Also, sixth grader Victoria attends Hockaday as well.
With four siblings, arguments may be inevitable, but for Sarah, these challenges have made her able to become a better moderator within the family and have allowed her to adopt a more caring role.
“It could be a challenge when everyone has different opinions and don’t get along. But if two of my sisters are having a fight, we would always try to settle the argument down,” Sarah explained. “Everyone’s always trying to help each other, even though we fight sometimes.”
Despite learning basic skills from her daily life, Sarah has also developed an appreciation towards the community. According to her, experience with family members has helped to construct her views of others, especially those with a close relationship.
“It is very important to have a sense of community, and I couldn’t imagine a life without all of my sisters. I feel and I want to be closer to everyone else,” said Ryan.
Despite this, the family still has to deal with the challenges of having five children. For instance, rushing to the airport during a vacation can be a hassle. It still amazes Sarah how her family deals with these scenarios.
“I don’t even know how we manage to go to the airport and get on the plane as fast as possible with all these children and bags,” Sarah said. “My dad is the one who plans everything meticulously, so when we are all over the place, he’s always the one who guides things.”
But regardless of inevitable challenges, unique traditions help bring colorful memories for the family.
“On New Year’s and the Fourth of July, our whole family goes to Cedar Creek and my dad will put together some kind of fireworks show,” Sarah said.
Growing up and spending time with her siblings and parents, Sarah believes that she has picked up many traits which she hopes to bring into her own family in the future.
“My family spends a lot of time together, which is something that I would definitely want to be true for my future family,” Sarah said.
Story by Emily Wu