Happy Families

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A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with Chioma on her blog, which is appropriately entitled lifehomeandaway. As someone who has quite recently arrived in the UK, Chioma’s focus is on creating a comfortable and caring home for her family – not an easy thing to do in a strange country where everything is different to what you were used to, and everyone you knew – including the family you grew up in – is many miles away.

One of Chioma’s main interests is in making sure her children will grow up in a happy home, so that in future years they have a store of happy memories to look back on. Having learned that I had six children, she asked me if I’d do a post to explain how I dealt will this as my children were growing up, so that is what this post is about. Of course I can only talk about the way things were in my family, and air my own opinions.

I have many happy memories from the years when my own children were young during the 1970s and 80s. How I tried to ensure they were happy is difficult to analyse but I do believe that one of the key things children need is a feeling of security. They all need to know they are loved and wanted.

Me and Tom

Me and Neil

Perhaps the best way to ensure that is by simply spending some time with them and talking to them. Yes, by all means tell them how much you love them now and then. It’s easy to assume that children know that, when perhaps they don’t. Hugs are good, too. Young children also love to be included in daily activities. Mine always loved to help me bake, perhaps roll out their own little portions of pastry or help to put the cake mixture into cases, perhaps decorate them later, too. Most of them loved to be given a duster, or – when they were a little older – iron some of the simple items, perhaps weed or hoe the garden. There are many jobs they just loved to do. I do realise how difficult this can be sometimes, especially mowadays, with both parents often out at work all day. But it doesn’t have to be for long and can often be incorporated into daily tasks.

Play is always a vital pat of any child’s life. In the 1970s and 80s kids played outdoors a lot more than they do today. There were no computer games or even DVDs to keep them glued to the spot.  They used their imaginations, invented situations or played out stories they’d read. And they ran about, enjoying the fresh air! Children’s imaginative play is a delight to watch. I’ve seen mine pretend to be all kinds of things, from strange, fantasy creatures to different characters they’ve come across. Dressing up is a great part of this, so a box of any old or cast off clothes and hats is great. (These old photos are rather blurred, but are just to illustrate my point.)

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My two youngest playing in our back garden, 1988
My second daughter (afairymind) in a oicture which displays her love of making up stories from a very early age.
Playing at hobby horses in the garden

 As they got a little older and played away from the garden, I was always careful to know where they would be, and would never let them wander a long way off, or be out for hours at a time. Traffic danger was never an issue in our village. I would always go for walks with them, go blackberry picking, feed the ducks in the park or have snowball fights in winter. I’ve ‘ve always been an outdoorsy person, so enjoyed whatever we did.

A picnic in the park in 1980
A picnic in the park in 1980

 

Days out and holidays often leave children with happy memories. But this is sensitive territory, as many families can’t afford such luxuries. I know, because we were in that position during the years when I didn’t teach. Later on, when we had two cars, we started to do holidays, just around Britain to start with., then abroad later on. Seaside holidays, or just days’ out, were always a hit.

 

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Family holiday in Norfolk in 1989. Dad with the four younger kids. The two eldest were watching the silly antics with me.
On a Norfolk beach in 1989

I have lots of photos to help us recall family times from years ago, but they would be on no interest to anyone else but us. Many are in albums, others just kept in a big box. They are old and not expertly taken, so look very poor compared to modern photos. But to me and my family, they are very precious.

One of the things Chioma stresses is that there are always compromises to be made in the process of making a home and bringing up children. In our case that was certainly true. There were a few years when I couldn’t go back to teaching, especially when the last two children were still small. So the biggest compromises were financial ones. But we chose to have six children and that was that. We also needed a rather large house, and had many years in a big, three storey Victorian house with six bedrooms. We all loved that house.

I’m really not sure whether this is what Chioma wanted but, as I said, I can only speak from my own experiences. Just being together worked really well for us.

all of us