My sisters, Val and Joan, never forget my birthday, nor do they forget Dianne’s or my children’s birthdays. I wish I could tell you that I never forget theirs – and I might be tempted to if I didn’t think they’d get hold of a copy of this book. Fortunately for me they still look on me as their kid brother and therefore afford me latitude I don’t deserve. But they are right not to forget – the extended family is important.

Isolated Families

For many people of my generation, we didn’t have to try too hard to remember our extended family when we were young – for the very good reason that we saw them most days. Uncles and aunties might live in the same street as us, grandparents just around the corner, and grown-up siblings in the same house. In those days, a young mum didn’t have to buy a book on parenting to discover whether it was unusual for her first baby to cry most of the night. She had at least six parenting experts who lived within a half-mile of her – and she was related to all of them.

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