When I was four years old my cousin Aaron was born to my mom’s sister. The next year, my sister, and three other cousins were born on my mom’s side. After that, every year, two or three or sometimes all four of my mom’s sisters were pregnant. By the time I was eight, I had thirteen cousins on that side of my family. When my sister and I were added in, that meant there were there were fifteen of us, and I was the only one not the age of five. More often than not (we lived relatively near one another), my mother would take my sister and I over to one of her sisters’ houses to do our schoolwork, or to help out with housework. And we might not be the only cousins over that day; other times, our cousins would come to our house and we’d all do homeschooling together. So, despite the fact that I only had one younger sister, I was frequently charged with several of the younger children.
I watched them play, kept them out of trouble, helped them pick up their toys, nursed their wounds, settled their arguments, and, when they got old enough to start school, helped them with their homework. I had to make sure they obeyed—when they didn’t, I bore partial responsibility for their errors. But I had to be patient with them and not bossy when they didn’t do what I had asked. If someone did something wrong, I got in trouble for tattling if I told. If I didn’t tell, I was in trouble for helping conceal their sin. I loved my family and wanted to help take care of my cousins and to please my mother and aunts, but I wasn’t sure that I could do it. Some things were easy enough to handle. I could fix scrapes and bruises, wash faces and hands, explain schoolwork, and take care of a sick child. But other things—like settling arguments and disputes and keeping everyone out of trouble—seemed like an impossible task. There was only one of me, and I was only a child.