By Cody Soto
When Beeville sophomores Claire and Paige McKinney went on family road trips as children, it wasn’t exactly the most pleasant time. They were shoved in the back seat, not because they wanted to, but their other four sisters occupied the rest of the seats.
They have three older sisters, Maggie, Molly and Morgan. They also have another sister, their triplet sister Heather who currently attends the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
As two of eight people in the McKinney household, Claire and Paige know what it’s like to grow up with a big family. Their mother, Sarah McKinney, had six children under the age of six when the triplets were born in 1994.
“We were in a four-person stroller when we were babies, and my mom had to special order it through a triplets magazine,” Claire said. “Whenever we were younger, she even spoke at conventions because she had six children under 6 years old. We really could have been a reality show because people couldn’t believe it.”
The eight-person household was filled with plenty of things to do, Claire said. Originally from Beeville, a town of 13,000 people, most residents recognize the family everywhere they go.
“We would go out to eat and people would come up to us and say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re the family with the triplets.’ Even senior year in high school, we got the same responses,” Claire said. “When we stopped to eat in Beeville on our way to the beach with our friends, we knew everyone there and [our friends] asked us, ‘Is this what it’s like all the time for you?’”
The McKinney triplets were unexpected by their parents, who were originally thinking of having a boy in the family, Paige said.
“While Morgan was 15 months old, my parents were thinking that it would be the perfect time to have another baby, and clearly every father wants a boy,” Paige said. “They were shocked when they had three girls at the same time.”
Although unusual in today’s society, having a big family didn’t seem to bother the McKinneys.
“It was normal for me; I didn’t know any different,” Heather said. “But since we were triplets and had three other sisters, it brought more attention.”
Since they’re not identical triplets, they seemed to get along quite well. They had their own built-in best friends, Claire said.
“We don’t look alike, so the competition isn’t there,” Claire said. “I know a lot of twins that are identical, and sometimes they don’t get along. I think the fact that we look different makes the difference.”
Moving from rural Beeville to suburban Waco was a change for Claire and Paige when they moved last fall to come to Baylor. Although their mother and older sister, Molly, attended school at Baylor, it was a bit overwhelming at first, Paige said.
“We have had a completely different upbringing living in Beeville,” Paige said. “I really missed Beeville the second semester. Growing up somewhere like that, you tend to understand the world better.”
The “small town fame” didn’t travel with them to college, and they had to make the effort to be friends with others.
“You don’t really know how to meet people in Beeville because they already know who you are,” Paige said. “Coming to Baylor is a little intimidating because no one knows who you are. You really have to put yourself out there.”
Having all six kids studying at the college level is a blessing and a burden at the same time.
The McKinney family had to budget their money and work hard in order to afford a quality education for their daughters.
“Nothing can really prepare you for having four kids in college at the same time. Right before we got to college, our older sister Molly had just graduated from grad school,” Paige said.
Claire and Paige’s triplet sister received an academic and athletic scholarship to play soccer for the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio her senior year in high school. This made things a lot more manageable after their FAFSA results came back disappointing, Claire said.
“We had to put all of father’s ranches at market value. Even though we never have that money and don’t intend on having it, we still have to put it on the FAFSA form as if we are going to sell it,” Claire said. “Even though our parents have six kids, it didn’t matter. We saw that end of it because it wasn’t fair.”
With each of their sisters moved out of the house as well, Claire and Paige rarely have all of their family members together in the same place. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best chances of having all eight McKinney family members together in Beeville.
When that happens, it means a lot to them, Heather said.
“When we all are able to get together, it’s really exciting,” Heather said. “There’s tons of laughter and a lot of happiness all around the family.”
Heather knows what their parents have gone through to provide for her, and through it all, it’s made them a stronger family, she said.
“I have been able to see how much our parents sacrifice for us to be happy,” Heather said. “I know it wasn’t easy to raise six kids, but my mom did her best with what she had. She provided everything for us, and although we are a big family, she would have never thought twice to get us what we needed.”
Sarah McKinney served as a role model for her six daughters, and her action has rubbed off on her daughters, Claire said.
“Our mom’s always been a strong, independent woman,” Claire said. “Our mom always said we had to do things for ourselves, so we call our sisters for any help we need.”
Having Claire attending the same school as her makes Paige much more comfortable moving on into a new chapter of their lives, she said.
“I wouldn’t survive Baylor without [Claire],” Paige said. “I feel like I’m always outgoing and independent, but I made Claire walk me to my classes first and second semester last year. If we ever need something, we always call each other.”
In a way, they can see the McKinney family as a reality show because of how diverse each family member is. It would make better ratings than most of the current shows, Heather said.
“There were times when we all lived together where we could have had a better TV show than the Kardashians,” Heather said. “We do our own thing and we have that comradery with our family, and it would for sure be funny.”