Pacific edition, Sunday, June 17, 2007

SEOUL — Her classmates are fascinated by her family at first.

“You’re the girl with six brothers and sisters?”

“No,” she says. “It’s 10.”

At 14, Chynna Travis is the second-oldest sibling in the Travis clan, and she’s used to being known as the girl with the big family. But she doesn’t mind the attention, and neither does her older brother, 15-year-old Lowell Jr.

Both say they also don’t mind the responsibilities that come with being the two oldest in a family that often gets compared to the Brady Bunch: baby-sitting, knowing their younger brothers and sisters copy what they do, and sometimes being a substitute parent.

Lowell Jr. became the de-facto dad of the Travis family for a year and a half when his father, Capt. Lowell Travis, deployed to South Korea. The family joined their father here three months ago; in the meantime, Lowell Jr. assumed some of his chores and disciplinary authority with the younger siblings.

“After a while, it kind of got annoying because they didn’t listen,” he said.

Their father said he and his wife, Kiu, invested the most time in their oldest two children, teaching them values and study skills — lessons that are now trickling down to the younger children.

“We teach the oldest ones what is right, and the youngest ones just pick up on what the oldest ones do,” he said.

As the oldest, Lowell Jr. and Chynna have the most responsibility. They control the passwords to the computers, and they can take away computer, Game Boy, or iPod privileges if their younger siblings misbehave.

In turn, the youngest ones act as “spies,” reporting to their parents if the older ones misbehave or have personal problems, such as a fight with a girlfriend or trouble at school.

Their father says the oldest children sometimes feel the burden of being the oldest. But both teenagers say they like being part of a big family.

“We have someone to play with,” said Chynna, who shares a bedroom with her 5- and 7-year-old sisters. She doesn’t mind, even though she had her own room in Minnesota.

“It’s OK; it’s just different,” she said.

Lowell Jr. doesn’t understand why kids from smaller families often seem spoiled.

“I look at them, and I’m like, how are you growing up?” he said. “We’re, like, more in line. We know how to behave ourselves.”

They have definite opinions on how many kids they hope to have someday.

“Not 10,” Chynna said.

“Maybe three or four,” said Lowell Jr., who believes being the temporary dad gave him a taste of what it would be like to have kids of his own.

“That experience was just way too much,” he said.

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