There’s nothing like big family life. Everything is bigger and more when you’ve got a gaggle of kids living under one roof: the messes, the love, the noise, the stares from strangers.
How many kids does it take to make a “big” family? It depends on whom you ask (the answer is usually one or two more than they have). But you can be sure you have a big family when…
1. You read the fine print on “kids eat free” offers.
2. You know instinctively that you’re going to have to pay extra to put all your kids on a family membership to the science museum.
3. No matter who you meet, you have kids the same age.
4. You see a family and think, “Wow, that’s a big family!” but upon counting, you realize they actually have one less kid than you do.
5. If everyone wants to play a board game together, you have to play in teams.
6. Someone is always having a birthday.
7. No matter how many times you tell people, they can never remember the names of all of your children. Even your friends aren’t sure how many kids you have.
8. There is always somebody walking in front of you—really slowly.
9. Your mud room looks like the outerwear section of a department store. A really messy, chaotic department store.
10. Your kids don’t know what it’s like to own new clothes.
11. Not only have you tripled a recipe before, you do it routinely.
12. Everyone else’s kids want to hang out at your house, because it’s full of toys and playmates appropriate for all ages.
13. You can play a game of baseball, soccer or football whenever you want, and you don’t even need to invite over any of the neighbors.
14. Every day, you do two loads of dishes and laundry.
15. A meal at McDonald’s costs $50. And it’s the fanciest restaurant your kids have ever been to.
16. If you do go out to eat at a real restaurant, they seat you in the special occasion room.
17. You’ve never left the house without hearing “You’ve got your hands full!” 12 times, even when only half your kids are with you.
18. You don’t think it’s odd to go to the grocery store and buy 7 gallons of milk at one time.
19. You don’t bat an eye when the grocery bagger uses two carts.
20. There’s no room for your kids to bring a friend along, even though you have a full-sized van.
21. From the stares in the parking lot, it’s abundantly clear that your vehicle looks like a clown car when your entire family piles out.
22. A travel-sized toothpaste wouldn’t last your family more than a day or two on vacation.
23. In your extended family, there’s a list of everyone’s birthdays that gets circulated at family reunions.
24. You have to rent a place for family get-togethers because no one’s house is big enough.
25. There’s always more than one turkey at Thanksgiving.
26. It’s hard to name your babies, because no matter what name you like, someone in your extended family has already taken it.
27. At Christmas, your kids draw names to see whom they’re giving a gift to.
28. Nobody has their own room.
29. When you go somewhere with another family, people assume it’s a school field trip or a Boy Scout troop.
30. Getting in the car to go anywhere is like that scene from Home Alone.
31. Your oldest child is sometimes mistaken for your youngest child’s parent.
32. By the time you help the last kid put on their snow gear, someone else is cold and ready to come inside.
33. Someone is always sitting on your lap. When one child gets down, another one wants up.
34. Getting a family picture where everyone looks good isn’t even a possibility. You’re happy with a photo where only one person is crying, making a weird face, or picking their nose.
35. First-time visitors to your house gawk at the size of your dining table (and you still have to put out folding chairs when you have dinner guests).
36. And for sure you have a big family if you’ve ever arrived somewhere and realized that at least one person isn’t wearing shoes.
If you can relate to these, you have a certifiably big family. Congratulations! Now gather the troops and head out for a celebratory meal at McDonald’s. Take the copious stares from strangers as a compliment; they’re just wondering how you can fit so much awesome into one van.