Bill English's Father's Day surprise

Bill English's son Tom flew home from Australia for Father's Day and while he was here him and his dad shared one of their chats on Facebook.

The pair discussed how difficult it was for the Prime Minister and wife Mary to juggle six kids while they both worked full time.

"I think back to when there was six of us under 12 years old and I just wonder how the heck you guys did it?" Tom asked his dad.

"Frankly, Tom, we got a wee bit tired sometimes," Bill English replied.

From left: Maria, Bill, Tom and Mary English in Dipton 1993.
From left: Maria, Bill, Tom and Mary English in Dipton 1993. Photo credit: Newshub.

The aim was to keep their work lives out of the home

"We did work a bit at keeping politics away from home. I have to say though, part of it was because when I came home there was plenty to do. You kids were making lots of mess and lots of noise," he said.

"A lot of the things that had to be done were pretty straightforward you know, feed the kids, clean up the mess and make sure the parents got enough sleep."

Luke English pushes dad on the swing in Dipton, 1993.
Luke English pushes dad on the swing in Dipton, 1993. Photo credit: Newshub.

On top of that there was a strict rule that Bill English would return home for dinner every night, and there were to be no public engagements on Sunday - that was family day.

The rules have been amended now there's just one at home, 17-year-old Xavier - the baby. Or as Tom likes to call him, 'The Spoilt One'.

Nowadays Bill English sees himself in young fathers he meets on the campaign trail.

"The young fathers were just so involved, which is great. I was and I'm very pleased about that actually . You might be surprised how much time I spent reading you stories Tom, changing your nappies."

Tom English in Dipton, 1993.
Tom English in Dipton, 1993. Photo credit: Newshub.

The English children are spread pretty far afield.

Luke, the eldest at 29, is  studying at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney; Tom works as a doctor in Australia; Maria, 26 and the only girl, is heading to Stanford University to do an MBA; Rory, 24, is in Shanghai at a language school; Bart, 20, is living the scarfie life studying English at Otago University; while Xavier is due to finish up at St Patrick's College in Wellington at the end of the year.

The family keeps in touch via a group chat on WhatsApp.

"Some of it's about dad, but not all of it. It's not all about dad," Tom says.

"Oh come on, hardly any of it is about me," his dad jokes back. 

"There's lots more exciting things going on amongst the rest of us but dad gets a little bit of airtime if mum lets him."

Bill English also offered up some advice for parents.

"Don't get too worried about whatever's happening at the time particularly if you're a bit tired, a bit anxious. Things, particularly with little babies, can seem a bit overwhelming. But whatever it is it passes. My mum always said every child has one difficult stage but the rest of it's great."

Tom, of course, threw another of his brothers under the bus in response, this time Rory, who he thinks is the difficult one.

"He's had about 20 years of... It's an extended stage, a protracted stage."

But as Father's Day was the occasion, here was the message from Tom.

"Thanks very much for everything in the first 27 years, bit of time left to prove yourself," he said.

"I inherited your acne and your short stature but I look forward to hopefully inheriting at least the fact you've got a good head of hair."

Bill English, revealed the best Father's Day message he saw that day, wasn't even addressed to him. Someone had sent him a picture of a card their child had made for them.

"It's really good. It says: 'Dad, you're as strong as The Hulk, as fast as a cheetah and as smart as Bill English ... That's the one you should have sent me."

"I don't know if we wrote anything that nice about you ever but I'm glad someone is recognising it," Tom replied.