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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Family - does size matter?

Noticed this duck with her family en route for town this morning - she had 10 babies last week if she is the same one!
 I had an e-mail from a friend this morning in which she told me of her recent doings which all concerned masses of visitors and cooking, a wedding and various other exploits incorporating a massive cast of family and friends.  It got me thinking about families and how different they are.

My family is miniscule in comparison and never have we had a big family gathering such as many of my friends do at the drop of a hat.

I am an only child (or as the French say une enfant unique which sounds much nicer and less apologetic don't you think?) of a single mother.  I did of course have a father but not only was he someone else's father too (some of you may remember this story) but he died when I was only 2 years old and I have no recollections of him at all.

My mother's mother died when my mother was a girl so I never had a Granny but I did know her father so had a Grandfather.  My paternal grandparents never knew of my existence!

My mother had 2 sisters neither of whom had any children nor were they married, and 3 brothers 2 of whom married and had families one having one child and the other 4 children.  As a child I saw my cousins fairly often but we have gradually lost contact other than a card at Christmas and rarely see each other - last time was at my mother's funeral 11 years ago!

My husband has 2 sisters one of whom is single and whom we see regularly and the other who has 2 children and several grandchildren but she lives in Australia and those neices and nephews we have never seen

We have one daughter (not through choice but that's just how it happened) and she is single.

So our family consists of a very independent daughter in her 30s, and a sister-in-law plus us two.  It's hard to have a family get together with lots of noise and laughter with only 4 people. I do sometimes wonder if it would be nice to be part of a big close family but then again I realise that it doesn't always work out like that.

As a child I was always able to be alone if I wanted to which would obviously not be possible with brothers and sisters around and sharing bedrooms and so on.  I learned to be independent and also how to make friends as if I wanted anyone to play with that was a necessity!  I had a choice of whether to be out enjoying my friends' company or whether I might prefer to play alone maybe reading or doing some other solitary pursuit.  What I didn't learn was how to share, how to enjoy playing card games and things which require someone else to play with or how the give and take of normal family life works.

I wonder if you come from big families or small.  If you have lots of brothers and sisters do you all get on well together.  Does family size matter?

PS As I finished typing this Thomas has just come to remind me that we also have two cats so our family is not as small as I would have you believe!

PPS Do pop over to Pipany's blog to see her large family having fun and running their own Olympics - if we did that unless we had the cats joining in we'd all get medals as there wouldn't be enough of us to not win!!


  1. I think 2 cats in human count equals two dozen people.

    Lovely post

    The size of the family doesn't matter as much as the quality of the family (how many get along vs how many don't). Creating a network of friends can fill in a smaller family.

  2. I have a very small family - just 2 aging parents, 1 single sister (who lives so far away we only see each other at Christmas) and me (now also single). Oh and 2 cats of course! I do have some cousins in America who I keep in touch with via facebook and 2 cousins in this country who I have no contact with at all. But I have very good friends though who I am actually closer to than my family.

  3. Yes, I'd go for quality over quantity any time with families!

  4. I have one brother who is 13 years my senior, he married young and his eldest sons really were more like my brothers than he was because of the age difference. However a lot of the time it felt like I too was an only child which is why there is only 3 years between my son and daughter.
    Vivienne x

  5. I had two brothers, but one was killed on his motorbike. The other is married but without children and I rarely see him. A also have a half brother, from a late marriage my father made (he married three times) but haven't seen him for many years. He was only 14 when my father died in his 80s, and had a hard time dealing with it.

    I always felt like an only child as my older brother was sent to boarding school while we were abroad. My second brother was not born until I was 19 and away at Teacher Training College which explains why I don't see much of him now - I got married after my second year at college, and never lived at home again.

    So, even if you have siblings, sometimes you don't seem to...

  6. Very thought provoking. I am an only child and our daughter is an only child - like you, not through choice, that's just how things happened. My maternal grandmother was one of 13 - she hardly ever saw members of the family apart from three sisters and she only saw 1 on a regular basis. So, the important thing is - quality not quantity.

  7. i come from a large family but we are not close, we dont have children but one very demanding cat. size doesnt matter

  8. Jane I think you are who you are, whether form a small or large family. There are ps and downs to both types. I'm from a small nuclear family but lots of uncles and aunts and cousins. My husband has lots of brothers and sisters. There have been lots of stresses and straines in the past in his family and I always feltglad I had a small family. But as I get older I wish there were more intimate family members, now my dad has died, my mother is elderly and failing, and my older sister died last year from a brain tumour.

    But you have what you're given, and everyone's lives are different. Your family is what you make it!

  9. Very interesting post, Jane. I was adopted as a baby. I don't have a close relationship with my adopted brother and neither of us had a happy childhood. I am estranged from my adopted mother and I had a typical 'no-emotions-discussed' relationship with my Dad. Apparently, extended family couldn't accept me nor my brother because we were adopted, and I am no longer in contact with them. I deliberately had my 2 children in quite quick succession with the hope that they maintain a relationship into adulthood - they're friends now but who knows what the future will bring.

    I think that friends are the family you choose to have.


  10. I agree with your hubby: Cats (and dogs!) count as family! Not 'une enfant unique' myself,(I have a sibling whom I have seen a handful of times in 30+ years)I have never experienced the large family gathering many have, particularly in the US (maybe because they are spread over 50 states?)
    I think it would be fun!
    Love the duck family photo which brought back 'la mare aux canards' near my childhood home!
    A warm hello from the Pacific NW coast,

  11. I come from a small family too - I have a father, a sister and two nephews on my side of the family, plus one cousin I haven't seen for about 45 years. I did know all four of my grand parents however and have fond memories of them. My husband's immediate family are not many more. Sometimes I would think it would be nice to have a larger family, but as many of your comment writers say, you can't choose your family, they don't come with any guarantees. I guess we just have to accept what we have.

  12. I grew up spending a fair bit of time with my mothers family, of which there was a lot! There were children everywhere, and we all got along really well, which was nice. After my grandparents passed away we seemed to drift apart which is a shame. I have one sister who lives in Indonesia, so i dont see her that often now, but we keep in contact. Sometimes at christmas its just me and the two children, so we are adopted by a close friend and her family on the day!

  13. Well I grew up in a small family, with one sister who I really didn't get along with ... I think the stork delivered one or other of us to the wrong parents, we're chalk and cheese! So I filled my own house with 4 kids (mostly grown now - I'd have had more but we didn't have the space) and lots of dogs. I love it :D

  14. Thankyou for sharing this Jane. I am from a huge family, so is my husband. Families seem to get smaller with each generation.

  15. Jane, you manage yet again to make people dig deep and reveal things after reading your thoughts. I am so surprised at the lack of contact a lot of other bloggers have with their families and it has reminded me how lucky I was to be part of a small loving family that is, in turn, part of a wider larger loving family, salt of the earth types that I still see and love when I go home to Bristol. I speak to my 88 year old great aunt most weeks and her joie de vivre keeps me young but I know the family dynamics will change as we all get older but that's life and I can't change that!

  16. When I was a child I seemed to have lots of family - a much older sister (adopted but totally accepted by the family) and brother (13 and 11 yrs older than me) and a bevy of uncles, aunts and cousins all living around us in Bristol. My mother was the youngest but one of 12 children but only really had contact with one sister whilst my father was very close to his siblings so family gatherings were frequent and continued through my teenage years after we moved away to Essex. Now though, we like you have only one daughter (again not by choice), my husband only really has contact with one of his nephews who lives abroad, my sister and several of my older cousins have died and I don't really know my cousins' children. My brother lives across the other side of the country and my brother-in-law and nieces and nephews in Australia so family gatherings are a party for four these days but still much enjoyed.

  17. We are also retired and live in Rome with our daughter...and our little chihuahua Rocky. Nice to meet you! I am following you!

  18. I loved reading this post 'cose I only have a little family too. I often think it would be really lovely to have more family members so that we could all have a huge "bash"!! My daughter is getting married next year and we only have 10 of us at a push with two of those being over 80 but the groom has a huge family so it will be nice for us all to mingle, Lucey x

  19. We went to the circus last week and as we left and had our picnic on the village green I commented about one family: it was HUGE and there appeared to be grandparents, aunties, uncles and goodness knows how many children all seated around enjoying their food. I said how wonderful to be a part of such a BIG family and make such an occasion of it.

  20. Hello and thanks for your guess! In fact, I need to tell you that we drove all the way, so you can probably guess that we didn't go as far as you thought...

    Somewhat like you, my side of the family is now tiny. My husband has loads of close relatives and I have two. I do think that there are wonderful things about both of these types of families.

  21. PS, I've just added an extra clue to my post!


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