The Story Behind the Poem

This poem contrasts the family I grew up in from when I was little and when I was in high school. I am the oldest of ten children. While it sounds really sad, I’m actually not sad about my upbringing! The line “before we were twelve” (as in twelve members of our family) was in my head, and I simply had to do something with it. Every family transitions throughout its different stages and phases. As we continued to grow in age, we also continued to add more youngers to the family. A dynamic I loved as one of the biggers (but one that I can’t imagine surviving as a parent–props to you, Mom and Dad!).

Before We Were Twelve

by Sarah Steele
Summer 2010

Before we were twelve
We used to go on family vacations
And sing in the car
And say, “Are we there yet?”

Before we were twelve
We used to eat dinner together every night
And talk and yell and laugh
And say, “Pass the peas, please!”

Before we were twelve
We used to all share rooms
And get really annoyed with each other
And say, “Don’t touch my stuff!”

But now that we’re twelve
It’s too expensive to go on vacation
We’re too busy to eat dinner together
And we all have our own rooms.

Have you seen a shift in your family dynamics?

all of us kids

The “twelve” includes my parents and one brother who did not live long enough to make it in this picture. He’s still with us in our hearts.