Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dear Jus

Planning minister Justin Madden is very critical of new large outer suburban houses and so am I, but maybe not for the same reasons. Some of his criticisms are valid. How much energy does it take to heat a house of that size? Or cool it? Built to the extremes on both sides, a tiny back yard full of outdoor entertaining appliances and a decorative front yard for show, does not for children make a great play space. No jungle trekking here son/daughter and no, you can't climb the pencil pine.

I heard someone on the wireless and it all became clear to me. Parents in the parents retreat watching Rove Live on their plasma, one child in the home theatre room watching a dvd, another child in their study alcove playing on Myspace and doing msn chat at the same time along with doing her homework, another in her own personal bedroom flicking through teen mags when she is only nine.

This is not how I remember family life. We were all together. We annoyed the buggery out of each other I suppose, but I don't remember that. I remember talking to my brother when we sleeping in the same room. I remember the comforting sound of my father snoring. I remember the striking of a match when my mother got out of bed and went to her stash, they baby crying, the sound of my grandmother using her goesunder and the sound of the males pissing orf the verandah.

Mind you, I loved my privacy and insisted on it.

I am not sure why people need such big and frankly, mostly ugly houses. Better to buy something a little more modest and closer to the city. Spend the balance on your child's' education, and I don't mean private school fees.


  1. You so knew I'd comment on this post - I'm predictable.

    Now, I'm not perfect - but I do live in a reasonably sized home, with a plasma and computers (no myspace) and you know, all that jazz.

    But it doesn't make our family less family. I think we each have our privacy, but family dinners are always adhered too - and we only have two TVs, and watch Faulty Towers together and House on a Wednesday.

    But I do think that huge houses for four people are ridiculous. We have six (or did have) - but only one story.

  2. I read somewhere recently about the impact of architecture on family dynamics - that things like three bathrooms and 'double sinks' and four TVs and oodles of space reduce our need to negotiate with each other, making us increasingly intolerant of each others' needs.

  3. Who will offend when I published this, I thought. Probabaly Rosanna. I don't want to name suburbs, but you can guess the types I am thinking about and Madden was talking about. Don't think your locale quite fits Rosanna, nor your house.

    Taking it a bit further Mikhela and it is a feasible theory. Yes, we can blame architects and buildings for making us a selfish society.

  4. I'm confused - definitely the houses in my suburb are not being or modern. They're all Edwardian and leafy.

    The big houses are to be found in those wide aisles of... well, you know where.

    Not offended, but running to defend :)

  5. No family rooms but a big kitchen and huge bedrooms. I hate family rooms, kids should have privacy as long as someone puts a pr0n lock on the computer and a big kitchen for the big table instead of stupid little benches and bar stools for eating quick snacks.

  6. Kidding a bit Rosanna, but you illustrate how family life can work in a large house. Who are we kidding really. It is not about house size, it is about families and their connectedness. Even in the McMansion, family life can be strong with good parental guidance.

    Quite so Jahteh. The large kitchen was the family room. But now, not even family rooms, only retreats. (I am sure you looked very cute in the tin bath on the table on wash night)

  7. Not far from the truth. When I was 3 we lived in a little old house in the hills in Ferntree Gully and the only warm place for a bath was in a tin one in front of the wood stove.

  8. I grew up in an 11 square house with 6 of us in it. I shared a bedroom with my sister, my brothers had to hare a room and mum and dad the other. Most of our time was spent outside, me on my horse or shooting targets with my brother. Spotlight tiggy on Summer nights with other kids from our area too, that was fun.
    It never really bothered us that the house was small, but there was no real privacy there.
    Now, I am in a largish 3br house with an open plan kitchen and family area. We all sit together for meals and soon, the dining area will be a beroom for our friend who is coming to live with us.
    There is ducted heating here but we will only use it rarely. When it is used, we turn it off 30 min before leaving for school or going out etc, so we are conscious of the environment, etc. There are drapes on the windows to keep the heat in too which is great.
    My choice would be that I live in the country in a small house with a combustion stove and a horse or three out back...thats my ideal place :)