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Big family shows not everyone center of universe

Oct. 26, 2005

by LAUREN BURRIS, columnist

I'm the oldest of eight.

Eight kids, that is.

Lauren, Audrey, Brian, Ashlyn, Rachel, Rebecca, Melody and Jeremy.

Same mom, same dad and a 19-and-a-half year age difference between me and my youngest brother.

Jeremy was born the summer after my freshman year of college.

Not many college freshmen go home over Christmas break and find out their parents are expecting another baby.

I admit, I was caught a little off guard at first, but now I can't imagine our family without Jeremy.

It seems like that's how it is with change a lot. At first, it catches us a little off guard, but in the end we know we wouldn't be the same people without those pivotal changes.

Growing up, so many people would ask my parents if they were either a) Catholic or b) Mormon.

To my utter embarrassment, my dad would often reply, "Nope, we're just two sexy Baptists."

A lot of times growing up, I just wanted to bury my head and hide because I knew it was coming.

We heard someone ask the question, and all of us brothers and sisters knew what was coming.

Here comes the embarrassment, the target on our family saying "please make fun of us."

For a while, we drove a Suburban.

That is, until we grew out of it.

Now we drive around in a huge, converted 15-passenger van.

I drove it once. It was kind of like driving a living room on wheels.

The first family vacation we took in that van was great. Compared to the Suburban with the struggling air conditioner, it was glorious -- room to move around, a television with a DVD player and our whole family piled in.

I never thought our family was that big until the twins were born.

When Rachel and Rebecca were born in 1996, our family grew from four to six kids.

All of a sudden, we were the Brady Bunch -- a lopsided Brady Bunch with five girls and one boy, but nonetheless an uncontested big family.

Being part of a big family is so thoroughly in my blood that trying to think about the "weird" or "crazy" things about having such a big family is hard.

So much of it seems average and ordinary, but I know it's not.

Not many people go home from college for the weekend, pull in the driveway and have four siblings run to the car before the engine is even turned off, but I do.

Not many people are used to studying with someone pulling on their arm, the TV on and somebody else practicing the piano, but I am.

Not many people think twice and know to be thankful when they get to spend even a few hours alone with their parents, but I am.

Not many people.

But then again, I guess it's those things we experience that nobody else has that make us interesting to learn from.

I've experienced a lot of things not many people can say they have, and I know I'm better for it.

One thing I've learned is how to work with a team.

With 10 people in the house, cleaning jobs can get done really fast.

But if everyone is doing their own thing, the jobs don't go so quickly.

But I think the biggest thing I've learned from being in a big family is that life isn't all about me.

It's really easy in our prideful American culture to think that we are it, that what we want matters above all else.

The thing is, though, if every person in my family thought they were the center of the world, we just wouldn't function.

It's not just some happy byproduct of being in a big family, it's a relational necessity I learned growing up. I think learning this growing up has enabled me to love people today.

It's not the size that makes a family functional.

It's always looking to the needs of other members of the family above your own.

Not that I'm the ideal family member.

But hey, another major perk of being in a big family is that there's always someone to pick up the slack.

Lauren Burris is a junior journalism major from Arlington.