Despite what many stu­dents learn in their ele­mentary years, one plus one can actually equal up to fourteen. 

At Hillsdale, stu­dents who come from big fam­ilies aren’t hard to come by. I inter­viewed five stu­dents, each with at least eight sib­lings, to hear about what it was like growing up in a big household.

Sophomore Hannah Cote, the third oldest out of ten kids, said it was always normal for her to meet new siblings. 

“I went to all four of my younger brothers’ ultra­sounds to wait to see if it was a boy or girl,” Cote said. “Every single time they said ‘Oh, it’s a boy,’ I cried. When my mom was pregnant with my sister Lucy, who was the first girl after me, I didn’t go to the ultra­sound because I was fed up at that point. The doctor said, ‘Where’s Hannah? It’s finally a girl.’”

The Cote family. Hannah Cote is on the far left.
Courtesy | Hannah Cote

Although Cote had to wait a while before getting her first little sister, she said being the only girl in between six boys came with perks.

“One time, when it was just me and the six boys, we were going to McDonald’s and my mom asked for six boy toys and one girl toy for the Happy Meal. They totally messed it up and gave us six girl toys and one boy toy,” Cote said. “That was the best day of my life, because I got six My Little Ponies, and my brothers all had to share one Transformer.” 

Freshman Lizzy Borobia, the second oldest of eight kids, said for most of her early years, she only had two sib­lings and con­sidered her family to be small. As she got older, her family started growing once they started home­schooling, and decided to move from Cal­i­fornia to Michigan.  Instead of flying, they drove.

 “It was the four of us, at the time,” Lizzy said. “We were in our little minivan. We drove across the country and would stop in hotels. My sister Cecilia was a baby, so she would sleep in the one bedroom and the rest of us would sleep in the main hotel room.”

Sophomore Katy Borobia, the oldest of the Borobia bunch, said some­times her younger sib­lings have a dif­ficult time making sense of their age difference.

The Borobia family.
Courtesy | Lizzie and Katy Borobia

“It’s really con­fusing for my sister Helen that Lizzy and I are her sisters because she thinks of us as the same age as our mom,” Katy said, laughing. “She’s always arguing with us about whether or not we’re kids too. She says we have six kids and four grown ups.”

Sophomore Matthias Rhein, the eighth out of fourteen kids, said his older sib­lings had a lot of influence on his upbringing, from daily activ­ities to taste in music.

“Basi­cally, my oldest sib­lings were the main ones that my parents raised, and then I was raised by my older sib­lings,” Rhein said. “My sen­si­bil­ities and sense of humor is very much like a 90s teen.”

Having younger sib­lings is a new expe­rience for Rhein, as four of his younger sib­lings were recently adopted from Ukraine.

The Rhein family. Matthias Rhein is on the far right.
Courtesy | Matthias Rhein

“I’m not used to having baby sib­lings because I was always the baby sibling,” Rhein said. “They’re all sib­lings them­selves and so it was really amazing to bring them into the house and share with them things we take for granted. They loved having good food and being warm and going to the beach, and things like that.”

Junior Susannah Green, the eleventh child out of twelve, said that being one of the youngest sib­lings allowed her to grow up with many role models.

“I looked up to my older sib­lings a lot and there were always people to hang out with,” Green said. “They showed me the ropes and I would just follow along. The four oldest are all girls so it was nice to have my sisters as examples. They always took me under their wing, and they still do.”

Seven of Green’s sib­lings are adopted as well. As a result, she said, many of her sib­lings are close in age.

The Green family. Susannah Green is third from left in the top row.
Courtesy | Susannah Green

“My parents are really strong Chris­tians so they felt a strong calling to do that,” Green said. “They saw that a lot of kids need homes and fam­ilies and they saw that as a way to show the love of Christ.”

Faith also plays a big role in Cote’s family life. Her mom con­verted to Catholicism when she met her dad, and after that point they came to the decision to accept as many children as God would allow them.

“I think this goes for every big Catholic family, but we see children as a gift,” Cote said. “It’s really sad to see newly married couples who don’t want kids at all or only want one boy and one girl. It’s actually not up to us, and I think my family has loved having kids and babies in the house. That’s the whole purpose of marriage.”

Despite what many people might think, Cote said that having a lot of sib­lings can be a great blessing. She said she has never wished her family was any different.

“A lot of people, when they figure out you have nine sib­lings, ask ‘How do you do it?’ But that was just normal for me. I would see other fam­ilies and would kind of feel bad for them,” Cote said, laughing. “They think it’s this awful thing some­times, and it’s actually really fun.”

Lizzy Borobia said her expe­rience having a big family has allowed her to appre­ciate the dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­ities between her siblings.

“I def­i­nitely think that, espe­cially in a big family, you can see such a spectrum of per­son­al­ities and gifts and it’s amazing to see how special each person is even within one family,” Borobia said. “I know that today society says, ‘It’s too big to feel special or for your parents to care about you,’ but it’s totally the opposite. In such a big family there’s so much love between each person.”

Her parents’ ability to provide for each one of her sib­lings has shown her the depth of her parents’ love for her, Lizzy said.

“I think there’s some­thing really amazing about the sac­rifice my parents make because they want to take care of every one of their children in every way they can,” Borobia said. “Their love is so boundless.”

Rhein said one of the chal­lenges for him, growing up, was having to share with so many other people. He recalled a memory from when he was five years old, and his oldest brother had just left for college.

“I remember my oldest sister filming me on a cam­corder, asking me about my day to send to my older brother,” Rhein said. “My other brother Tim, who was about twelve, came down and broke all my legos. I famously went up to my mom and said ‘Tim broke my legos,’ and my mom, as the saint she is, said, ‘I don’t care.’ I ended the video by going back down­stairs to keep playing legos. My parents gave us a lot of tough love and put things in perspective.”

One of the biggest rewards for Rhein was seeing his older sib­lings forge lives for them­selves that he could aspire to follow.

“Seeing the dif­ferent paths a person can take and still be a good person is one of the most inspiring things to me,” Rhein said. “Watching older sib­lings come home from college and watching them change has really affected my under­standing of maturity and how I want to grow and what I want to be as an older person.”

As time goes on and his sib­lings move farther apart, Rhein said, his family has had to come up with unique ways of staying in touch. 

“Every single time one of my sib­lings has a baby, which is pretty fre­quently now, some of the younger sib­lings get sent out to help the mom with the baby,” Rhein said. “I’ve been sent out three or four, maybe five times in the past few years. That’s been one of the best bonding experiences.”

In addition to having the younger kids help out, Rhein’s family holds yearly family reunions and uses an app called Family Wall that allows them to pri­vately share pic­tures and videos. Green said her family uses a group chat where they message daily. Her family now has 22 members, including nephews and in-laws.

“My mom tries to encourage us all to come home for Thanks­giving,” Green said. “A lot of them live nearby so we see each other. My parents raised us to know that family is the most important thing and to pri­or­itize friend­ships with each other.”

As the fifth member of her family to attend Hillsdale, Green said sharing the Hillsdale expe­rience with her sib­lings has brought them together in a special way.

“It’s a really cool bond we share because we know all the quirky things about Hillsdale,” Green said. “When I was a freshman I was here with my two older brothers, and that brought us a lot closer. It’s nice because some of them are going to be living here long term, so I’ll always have a reason to come back after I graduate.”

Katy Borobia said as she grows older, she can see parts of herself in her younger sib­lings and would love for some of them to follow in her foot­steps. Above all, she wants them to succeed in whatever path they choose.

“I don’t want them to do exactly every­thing I’ve ever done, but I would love for some of them to go to Hillsdale,” Borobia said. “In general, I want them to know that I want them to do what they’re sup­posed to do. They’re dif­ferent people than I am.”

Cote said that her expe­rience having many sib­lings has made her want to have a big family of her own, if that’s what she is called to do. 

“It’s the Lord’s calling over my life, and that’s some­thing I want to run after full force,” Cote said. 

Rhein said he would rec­ommend his expe­rience to anyone con­sid­ering having a big family.

“I think a lot of people value a lot of the wrong things in life,” Rhein said. “Being in a big family, you’re always with the dying, too. When people are dying, they never regret mon­etary things. They always say things like, ‘I wish I had more kids. I wish I had more people here.’ Raising kids is, I think, the best thing you can leave behind. Those who can, should.”