We thought it would be fun to get another perspective on life in the Nelson Family, so we asked Jane's daughter, Natalie, to answer a few questions about the dynamics of growing up in a large family. Thanks, Natalie!
What were/are your sibling relationships like in a large family?
I had a brother just one year ahead of me in school. He'd come down from the first grade playground and intimidate bully's for me when I was in Kindergarten. In high school we had the same circle of friends and I loved having a sibling so close in age. I always shared a room with at least one of my sisters and that makes for unique bonding. I think that is typical of any family though, not just large ones. I did feel like I always had a friend, there was always someone to play with. Most of my memories growing up are of fun times I had with my siblings, rather than other friends, especially in the elementary years. We did have other friends, but the majority of our free time was spent at home with each other. Now I have three sisters living close by and those relationships are invaluable to me. My youngest brother is 8, so those dynamics are a little different. He'll always remember me as an adult, but we're still close in our own way. What a lucky kid he is, to have so many people invested in his life. I feel like we're all very lucky to have each other. It's an amazing support system.
Did you ever feel like you weren't getting enough of your parents' time or attention?
My life was never empty. I never felt a void and sometimes felt the opposite=) I had a very loving and personal relationship with each of my parents and I think we all feel that way about them. I feel like they were aware of me, that I could talk to them about anything. My dad was the doting one, buying simple treats for us for no reason or tearing up when he'd speak of his love for us. My mom was the constant one, meeting every need, staying in tune emotionally, offering wise advice, and just enjoying us. I never felt "lost in the crowd" in any way. There weren't many one-on-one dates, but there were many, many one-on-one moments and I never doubted their love for me.
What were the best things about your family life?
This is a hard question. We just had a lot of good times at home together, worshiping, playing, and working. My parents were very grounded in the gospel and good at putting the important things first. Home was a place of safety and consistency. They were also very fun people and made life at home exciting. Saturday chores were made into an elaborate bean-earning game complete with a little store at the end. We'd go without TV for a week so we could earn a movie night at home complete with homemade pizza, treats from the bulk foods section, and popcorn. Family road trips were always something to look forward to because my parents would plan (or not plan, but come up with as we went) wonderfully fun things for us to see and do. It just felt good to be a part of our family, like I was a member of a wonderful club. I felt like my parents had a very good vision for our life and it was a great mix of deliberate teaching and just enjoying each other.
Did you ever feel jealous of kids with smaller families? Or upset about what you perceived you were going without?
Never did I feel this way. Ever. I saw my siblings as blessings, and "the more the merrier" rang true to me. I genuinely felt sorry for friends with just one or two siblings. As far as going without, my parents were very good at providing what was needed and sprinkling in some special extras. Birthdays and Christmas were always special, but our day to day life was pretty simple. I know now that there were lean times and times of plenty, but l couldn't tell the difference at the time. We were always grateful for things we were given and my parents gave us opportunities to earn money if we wanted to save up for something extra.
How did your family experience growing up shape your expectations and desires for your own family?
I think in big families this can go either way. For me, I longed for a house full of my own children, to emulate the happy life my mother had created for our family. In my dreams, I thought it would be easier than my reality has turned out to be. Being the third child and oldest daughter, I already considered myself an expert on all things babies and children before I had one of my own. I really believed it would just be a snap, a natural extension of my life. I have been married for 5 years and have four little boys and let me tell you, it isn't always as I'd pictured. I'm a miserable failure compared to my own mother=) But I love my life. I think the greatest gift my mother gave to me was a deep satisfaction in motherhood. She taught me to love babies, to adore little children and appreciate how they enrich my life, to find accomplishment in a room well cleaned, a meal on the table. Motherhood can be a thankless job, but she instilled in me the ability to see the many gifts and joys that are offered back to me in this role.