Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

July 27, 2007

five wild step-brothers and sisters

The recent publicity about the Gillespies, a welfare dependent British couple with 12 children, being given a huge home in an upmarket neighborhood -- causing the neighbors to see red -- reminded Tikki of her own large blended family and the nasty neighbors they had to put up with.

"Like Samantha Gillespie, my step-mom had five children from a previous relationship when she married my dad, a widow, who had four children," says Tikki, "but thankfully they didn't produce any kids together otherwise we would have had a complicated family of half-brothers and sisters as well as step-brothers and sisters."

"So, there were 9 kids in my blended family, not 12," laughs Tikki, "and my 5 step-brothers and sisters were as wild as anything and always getting into trouble with the neighbors."

"I was the baby of the family," confides Tikki. "I was 2 when my mom died and I can't remember her, and I was 7 when my dad re-married and brought my step-mom and her 5 wild children into our home."

"My dad wasn't jobless like Carl Gillespie -- and our house was his own home, not one provided by the state," explains Tikki, "but the attitude of the neighbors towards my step-mom and her 5 wild children was just as nasty as the one the Gillespies are facing."

"The were seen as being the wrong sort of people for our neighborhood," sighs Tikki. "They spoke with a broad accent, they were scruffy and noisy and our once neat house and garden soon became the bane of the street."

"My dad and step-mom loved each other and didn't care about what the neighbors thought," says Tikki, "but my sister and my two brothers and I were constantly harassed at school by the neighbors' kids."

"The best thing about having 5 wild step-brothers and sisters was that they did come to our aid in a scrap," laughs Tikki. "When one kid at school stole my tennis gear the meanest of my step-brothers got it back for me in no time at all!"

"By the time I was 17 there was only myself and an older brother at home," says Tikki. "My older sister and another brother had left home, and the five wild step-brothers and sisters had long gone, too, and the neighborhood was none the worst for the experience."

"Sure, it was a crazy ten years when we were all together," laughs Tikki, "but what neighbors forget is that kids grow up very fast and the urchin who breaks your windows one day is your respected policeman or ambulance driver within a very short time. Yes, two of my wild step-brothers achieved this distinction!"

"Big families -- blended or not -- can be very scary to neighbors," says Tikki, "but spare a thought for the kids themselves because their lives are so very different from those of kids in small families."

"I respect my step-mom but never loved her as I would have my own mother," says Tikki, "and she's cool with that."

"I know that there's no way I would want to have 5 kids -- and take on 4 more," says Tikki. "She may be as rough as guts -- as one neighbor called her -- but her heart is in the right place."

"So, to all those uppity people in Newbury, Berkshire, give Carl and Samantha Gillespie -- and their 12 children -- a break," says Tikki. "Sure, it may be unfair that the state gives them an income and provides them with a nice new home -- after one of their kids burnt down a previous state provided home playing with a cigarette lighter -- but in ten years' time their kids are likely to be a credit to the community."

"There's an awful lot of talk these days about the dire ramifications of an ageing population," says Tikki, "and while having children on welfare may not be the ideal way to address this problem the Gillespie's, in their own fashion, are making up for the many couples who choose not to have children in order to pursue careers and the good life."

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