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Four? That’s BIG

Family sizes have shrunk, especially amongst Pakeha, but some couples, like Justin and Leeanne Makinson, still think big. By Peter R Walker.

Today, four children is officially a big family.

Just a generation ago, three four or five children in a family was common. A generation before that it was common to have a family of seven, eight, or nine children. Or more. Nowadays, however, most families are smaller.

The perception is that having a large family must be expensive. And chaotic. However, it is not necessarily true and, like most families, children (whether one or four or more) require some compromise, and continuous adjustment.

“With Lucy, we outgrew our car,” says Justin. He and his wife, Leeann, have four children, aged fourteen, eleven, six, and Lucy is just one and a bit.
A bigger car was just one of the adjustments they required to accommodate the newest addition to their family.

“We have waves of feeling busy,” says Justin, “but don’t feel it’s too much.” However, if you consider that Justin is studying full-time to be a secondary teacher and has just become a Youth Worker with the Father and Child Trust, or that Leeann is in training for the Auckland Marathon, that they have a fifteen year old cat called Vader, some guinea pigs and a new puppy called Bear, and that they home school their children, most could be forgiven for thinking that Justin’s ‘waves’ might really be tsunamis.

But clearly they make it work. They are not independently wealthy, and they haven’t won big in Lotto recently. So, like most families, they prioritise.
“We don’t make false promises,” Justin says about what the children can and cannot do.

Two of the children are good swimmers and, as it is for all parents, it can be a double-edged sword. When one or more of their children begin to succeed in sports, while most parents want their children to be successful, such things instantly begin to require more resources from possibly already stretched budgets and hours in the day.

Justin and Leeann’s philosophy in this regard is simple. “If you make it to the top levels, we’ll find the money.”

They also take a “life is learning” approach to home-schooling their children. It’s about character development. “Getting the kids involved, whether it’s cooking tea, looking after siblings, cleaning up, or mowing the lawns, which my daughter loves to do. And Lillie loves bathing Lucy.”

“It’s like, if you’re awake you’re learning.”

Even Justin’s passion, rock-climbing, something he’s loved since high school, is an opportunity to teach his children about the world. “I love the mountains, and it’s my dream to share that with the kids.”

By its very nature, in any family with four children or more, there’s a lot going on, and one can imagine there’s not a lot of quiet time for parents or children, but time out is essential.

It’s a co-operation, says Justin. “We’ve learned don’t sweat the small stuff. Sometimes we do, and that’s an indication you need to take some time out. We can read each other like a book, and I appreciate Leeann’s ability to be my coach. When I, perhaps, can’t see it, she’ll tell me I need to take some time out.”
“We coach each other.”

So into the mix of busy mum, dad, and three active children, comes Lucy. As well as another learning opportunity Lucy, says Justin, “is the glue.
“She’s consolidated the children. It’s been great to see Tegan’s (14) natural characteristics come out; and to see my son hold his little sister, feed her, and look after her… displaying the ability to be a man. Lillie was so inquisitive.

“For Leeann that’s everything.”

In the 21st Century every family is busy. Like most, Justin and Leeann are making life with four children work for them. Are there plans for any more children?
“We’re taking Bear in to get fixed,” Justin laughs. “We might ask about a two-for-one deal.”

“There are no plans for more children at the moment,” he says. “But we did buy an eight seater car, so, who knows.”

Next: New Look on Gender Roles

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