“There’s no need to cry about it,” Simon Thomson says, and his children dissolve into giggles, though they’ve heard the joke before.
Matthew (8), Rebecca (6), Deborah (4), and baby Hannah laugh a lot. In fact, Hannah can’t do much yet but laugh, cry, and kick her legs. But she does it in such a Hannah sort of way that she’s surely one of the best-loved babies in Christchurch.
Christchurch is a gracious city on the eastern coast of the southern island of New Zealand. The river Avon winds through its green parks, and racing shells (boats) skim upstream and down like long-legged water bugs. The Thomsons enjoy their city. They visit parks. They go tenpin bowling. They swim. They attend plays. They visit the Antarctic Center and other museums. They dress up in costumes, sometimes for parties, sometimes just because.
They work together, too—washing dishes, vacuuming, scrubbing—doing anything that needs doing.
And they worship together, attending church, praying, and studying the scriptures. They study the scriptures in many different ways to meet the needs of many different ages. Sometimes they use the scripture readers. Sometimes they read straight from the standard works. Sometimes they read just a verse or two and then sing several songs about the message. Sometimes they act out a scripture story. But however they do it, they do it together.
Brother and Sister Thomson have worked hard to create this closeness. Brother Thomson is a teaser and jokester. He is also a loving father who has written down three goals for himself: 1. Make sure that my children know that I love them, 2. Make sure that they know that I love their mother, and 3. Help them gain their own testimonies.
Their mother, Diane, is just the person to help achieve these goals. She is funny, firm, soft, strong, tough, tender—whatever it takes.
Each child, in turn, adds an essential flavor to the family’s happiness. “Matthew’s my right-hand-man,” Mum says. He’s very helpful when Daddy’s not here. He has the sensitivity to know when Mum’s had enough or needs help. He often jumps up and volunteers to help with something—take the baby or help with the cooking or whatever.”
A quiet, thoughtful boy, Matthew is good at math, and he enjoys soccer, basketball, swimming, and other sports. He received a fishing pole for his birthday and likes to fish in the river. He snacks enthusiastically on his mum’s homemade fruit leather.
Matthew has a strong sense of justice and often reminds his parents of family rules. Brother Thomson once wrote in his journal: “Tonight my son taught me a lesson. After I got really frazzled with the kids and yelled at them, Matthew came up to me and said, ‘Dad, why don’t you keep a rule that Mommy’s keeping? She’s made a rule not to raise her voice.’ I felt like I should just be quiet and listen.
“My wife and I are amazed at his ability to grasp doctrinal concepts,” Brother Thomson adds. “When we talk to him about gospel principles, he soaks it in like a sponge. He just loves listening and learning. He likes to discuss things and reason things through.”
Brother Thomson has told his children that a mission is like a university education in the school of life, and Matthew plans to enroll. His family helps him prepare for that experience as they helped him prepare for his baptism. For many weeks before he turned eight, the family home evenings were modified missionary discussions, preparing Matthew as any convert to the Church would prepare. When his baptism day came, he was thoroughly grounded in the covenants he was making and in the eternal meaning of this earthly ordinance.
Already looking ahead toward Rebecca’s, Deborah’s, and Hannah’s baptisms, the family has calculated that when Hannah is eight years old, Matthew will be a priest and able to baptize her. This has led to discussions about the priesthood.
Six-year-old Rebecca bubbles over with life and enthusiasm. She’s always on the move, always doing, always thinking. Her parents have to scramble to keep her occupied. She delights in writing stories; picking and arranging flowers; and making things with paper, glue, and ribbons. A good artist, she gives away most of her drawings and other creations. She has a talent for making friends and is happy to befriend anyone of any age. She is constantly writing little love notes to Mummy and Daddy and Nana and Papa and Grandma and Grandad.
Rebecca likes dipping into the “goody box” (a reward box) at school. She gets to do this often, because she’s a good student. She does not like boys at school who hit her, and she’s not afraid to name names.
“One time when we were out walking, she had a stick in her hand, pretending it was really a sword,” Sister Thomson says. She was trying to whack blossoms off the neighbors’ flowers, and when we came to a fence, she’d scrape it along the slats, and I was getting kind of tired of it. I asked her what she was doing, and she said, ‘I’m killing all the bad people with my sword.’
“I said to her, ‘Do you think bad people can become good people?’
“‘What can we do to help make bad people good people?’
“She thought about it and said, ‘Make them a cake.’
“We kept talking about it as we walked, and a minute or two later, she quietly dropped the stick.”
Four-year-old Deborah is a “girl’s girl.” She adores anything pink and lacy. She loves new clothes, cuddles, hugs, and kisses. Sister Thomson recalls, “We were talking about words we shouldn’t say. I said, ‘Our lips should be saying this and this and this.’
“She looked at me and said, ‘Yes, and lips are for kissing.’”
“Her smile could melt the biggest iceberg,” her dad says.
Deborah loves to spell her name and solve the dot-to-dot puzzles Mum creates for her each day. She likes eating “trees” (her name for broccoli), as well as grapes, bananas, ice cream, peanut-butter sandwiches, and, of course, chocolate. She enjoys cleaning things, especially windows, helping her mum make biscuits (cookies), and stringing bead jewelry. Every few minutes she asks if she can feed Fish Bob and Trudy Pingu, the family goldfish. She loves going on dates with Mum and Dad and playing with Hannah.
The Thomsons are a fun, happy, loving, learning, righteous family who worship Jesus Christ and belong to His Church. They’re just right for a city named Christchurch.