Thursday, 8 May 2014

In the lead up to the highly

commercial "Mother's Day" (as opposed to the gentler Mothering Sunday) there are always a few "human interest" stories in our state newspaper.
There is one there this morning about a family with eight children.
My parents had four children. They had four children at a time when nobody was too bothered about things like "over-population". They had four children at a time when parents were not expected to provide designer clothes, electronic toys and expensive out of school activities etc. etc.
I have a second cousin who has six children. She home schools them and the house seems to be in a constant state of activity - so much so that the eldest girl once said of our house, "Gee it's quiet around here." I know several other families with five, six and seven children - mostly home-schooled.
"They have ready made friends," my cousin told me. Perhaps. Relations, particularly close relations, are not always friends.
I also remember visiting a family with twenty children. Before you say, "WHAT?" let me explain that a widow had married a widower and one family had eleven children. The other had nine children. I remember their living arrangements were extraordinarily well organised. They lived in a "double" council house but there were still bunk beds in the bedrooms. Their refrigerator was industrial size and so was all the other household equipment. Every available bit of garden space was cultivated for food. Their home was clean and, compared with many, tidy.
As a family unit it seemed to work. There were rules and everyone knew what was expected of them.
I also do not doubt that "Mum" was at the centre of it all. She was an extraordinary person, apparently full of life and energy. Her household planning was full of little strategies. The school bags all hung on their own hooks in the central passageway - that way she could see at a glance who was home from school and who wasn't. Everyone had the same grey socks for school and white socks for weekends - you just took a pair that matched (more or less).
On Mother's Day some years before I visited the family her children did not give her flowers or breakfast in bed.  They gave her a piece of paper and a pencil and asked her to write down some of the things she still wanted to do. It was, if you like, a "bucket list". They told her she could add to it any time, cross off the things she had done or no longer wanted to do.
"They're just little things most of them," she told me, "Sometimes though the children surprise me and I do one of them - or we all do. We just call it "Mum's list" but it really belongs to all of us."
My mother would never have written such a list....but I rather wish she had.

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