Eight Is Enough
by Tom Braden
Open Road

This reviewer remembers little about the television series Eight Is Enough (apart from that it starred Willie Aames), but the book on which it was based will leave a lasting impression. That’s because, in reading about this family in 1970s America, there’s now a fascinating vintage quality to parenting of yore.

Author Tom Braden (1917-2009) writes candidly about how he and wife Joan tackled subjects such as drugs, alcohol and sex, and reveals that “two of the children were accidents”.

The journalist in him then considers the possibility that a quarter of all Americans aged over 20 were unplanned (the pill was approved in 1960). He also admits he should never have had eight kids (the average American family then had 2.2). It’s possibly a one-sided opinion, but Braden says he and his wife could have managed on their own for up to three children.

Interestingly, one of their servants was a Hong Kong man named Sing, who served the children peanut butter sandwiches on a plate. Braden, however, wanted his kids to make their own after-school snacks and clean up after themselves.

His main parenting principle? Raising children who realise their responsibilities.