When it comes to fostering unity and togetherness at home, who better to ask than Humphrey and Dorothy, parents to Singapore’s first set of quintuplets?
(that’s right… FIVE kids!)
They began their big (literally) family adventure 16 years ago, when Dorothy gave birth to Adriel, Alicia, Amanada, Annabelle and Andre. Today, the household of 8 – Dorothy’s mother lives with them – is filled with loud laughter, the smells of baked goods, and the occasional quibbles to use the bathroom first.
Humphrey, Dorothy and Annabelle share their thoughts with us on building a close knit (big) family.
Many of us have 1-2 children, or 3 at most … What is it like having 5 children at home? Could you share your parenting philosophies with us?
Humphrey & Dorothy: All five of our children have different personalities, abilities and strengths. For example, Adriel our eldest son is strong willed, while Andre, our youngest son (and the youngest quintuplet), is a happy and unassuming boy who takes things easy … sometimes too easy!
Although they were born at the same time, they are individuals; this is something we’ve instilled in them since the beginning. We started by ensuring that our children did not dress alike, and we try to spend time with them individually. For example, I (Humphrey) attended Date with Dad with my daughters. It was good to be able to spend quality time alone with the girls.
I (Dorothy) believe in the habit of communication, be it in the car or at home. As husband and wife, we also make it a point to be good role models since they were young.
Being together is also important. We’ve made it a habit to attend church as a family, and we encourage them to do things they enjoy together … the girls will bake at home and the boys will get to enjoy the food.
It sounds like the siblings are quite close. What is life like with 4 other siblings?
Annabelle: There are many people who would say “Wouldn’t the house be noisy? Wouldn’t [we] always fight” etc. While yes, we do have fights, but we always come together at the end and apologise to one another. We try seeing things in a different light and we know that deep down we really care for one another.
I am quite close to my brothers and sisters as there would always be small pockets of time in the day to be able to talk and tell each other what is on our minds. My parents have always asked us to confide in one another because we can count on family.
Having so many different personalities in one home means a lot of different perspectives … How do you handle that?
Annabelle: My parents try to be impartial; they do not take sides. They constantly tell us that as brothers and sisters, we should always stand by each other.
Humphrey & Dorothy: We turn living in a multi-generational home to our advantage as we believe that “it takes a village to raise a child”. One major challenge that we faced was the different granny practices; we overcame them by observing (other) families, having discussions and constantly communicating with each other. Thereafter we adopt the good practices, e.g. keeping a daily log book to monitor the children’s health. We ended up keeping log books from the time they were infants till they were 8 years old!
So what’s your take on living in a multi-generational home?
Dorothy: Our home is small, and together with the constant presence of their grandmother(s) and our extended families, they (the children) can always share their thoughts with someone and turn to each other for advice. Our domestic helpers over the years have also chipped in as “big sisters”.
Annabelle: I am very fortunate because I am able to get simple advice and encouragement from my grandmother and it has always helped me believe in myself. She always sees things in a different perspective so it allows me to make better decisions.
Any parting words to those considering big families?
Humphrey: The greatest joy of having a big family is seeing your children showing concern and care for their parents, grandma and extended family members.
Dorothy: Cost and personal freedom have always been the reasons for couples to either shelve plans for child bearing or to have more children. My advice to them is this: you never know what’s in store, and there are numerous joys that one gets from (our) children. Personally, we have also learnt to be more tolerant and resilient beings (after having 5 children)!
Our heartfelt thanks to Humphrey, Dorothy and Annabelle for taking time to share their thoughts on family with us. Dorothy’s new book, Our Amazing Quins, documents their journey and shares parenting insights on bringing up multiples. The book is retailed at $15 at all major bookstores, with all proceeds going to KK Hospital’s Hospital Endowment Fund. Information on the book can be found here.
Later this month we’ll feature some wise words of wisdom from Annabelle on living with siblings and keeping the peace. Stay tuned!