My brother and his wife have four children, all of primary school age, and I love them all dearly. However, when I picture the scene of them arriving at my house, there is a soundtrack of volume and chaos that also comes with them.
During a recent conversation with my brother, he said how he would love to take his family skiing, something both he and my sister-in-law are good at – having spent a season in Chamonix in their younger years. But, alas, my nieces and nephew can’t ski, they haven’t even been on a flight yet, because the cost of an apartment that can hold six people is prohibitive for one household. Even a night in a Travel Lodge involves two family rooms with an adult and two kids in each. A family entry ticket to any UK attraction is usually two adults and two children, or one adult and three kids, either way it comes to serious £££.
We are often made to feel like we are in the way, because there are six of us using the places for six people. I’ve had people move the pushchair, or go around us when we are queuing because they think there are too many of us, and that we should wait longer!
So, why is it that the UK is so unwelcoming to large families? Why do we look down our noses at people who choose to have big families and are less interested in material goods? Surely they have it right and ‘us’ who clamber for this thing or that thing have it backwards?
I think there has been a lot of poor shaming on TV and people just assume that if you have a large family somewhere the tax payer is helping out.
There are a multitude of life lessons that children from big families learn that others don’t, just by the mere nature of being one of many siblings: They share, they are responsible, they can entertain themselves, they are less bossy, they are not so regiment in their thoughts and actions, they are grateful and they forgive easily.
I am a very neat ‘just so’ person. When my son was little, before my brother had a family, I used to take him to Auntie Sa-Sa (he was too young to say her name properly but it’s stuck to this day) to paint, play with glitter, Play-doh or finger paint. She didn’t care that her carpet looked like someone had poured glitter on it (he did) and she didn’t mind washing the cushion he’d sat on and covered in paint/Play-doh/yoghurt. Whereas, I came out in hives at the very thought of a felt tip in his toddler hand. She is just very good with children, she enjoys them and they enjoy her back.
“Messy play at Auntie Sa-Sa’s?” I’d say to his perfect smiling face.
And for the record, not that is should matter, they both work. My brother is a geologist and my sister-in-law is the owner of the national franchise Glow Bambino. They are all vegetarian and eco-minded.
So, is it fair that when they arrive at a pub garden or a garden centre or at a place where other people are out enjoying themselves, someone always, absolutely always, makes them feel unwelcome either by a roll of the eyes or even moving tables without even giving them the benefit of the doubt? It should be noted that they are noisy, it’s just a point I’m making!
I’ve had people say, ‘wow what a lot of children you have,’ and ‘ you certainly have your hands full with all those kids’, but the best one by far is ‘do they all have the same Dad?’, because that makes what difference to anyone except us? And yes, if it’s anyone’s business, they do.
The number of children I have never goes without being mentioned, like I need reminding!
We have all been fed the line that an average family is 2.4 kids and a white picket fence, but when was the last time you saw a white picket fence? The fact that the phrase was first coined in the 1950’s in America tells us how relevant it is today.
If you are good parents who love, support and care for your children and you have the means of supporting them, then why isn’t a large family a celebration? A hat’s off to you for making some great people who will go on to pay taxes and be productive members of the community. No one is asking you to babysit or iron the school shirts, so how about next time you see a large family instead of judging, perhaps we should all be a little bit envious, because they’ve enough love to easily go around.