The Cialdinis: Family on a mission

By on September 8, 2014
A few weeks back, I was invited to a party where I met a young mum named Veronica. She introduced herself as a mum to seven kids. “Seven?” I asked.

“Yes, I have seven children, and that’s my husband,” replies the soft spoken Veronica with a sheepish grin pointing to Gaetano.

Raising seven children in Tokyo is no mean feat. When I met her, I can’t help but put on my Sherlock Holmes cap and bombard her with too many questions, mostly about what it takes to hold everything together. So immediately, I jumped at the chance to arrange an interview with her family which she willingly accepted.

The day of the interview arrived. It was a sunny Sunday morning and even made sunnier by the warm welcome I got as I arrived at the doorstep of their 3LDK apartment. I must admit – a neat, well-kept home was far from what I had expected from a large family like theirs. I finally had a chance to meet the good-looking Cialdini kids: 5 girls and 2 boys (ages 15, 13, 11, 8, 6, 4 and 1.5).

Sunday lunch is communication time for the Cialdinis.

Being devoted catholics, the Cialdinis have a Sunday morning routine. They hold a bible study at home with Gaetano as preacher. Veronica and the children sit around the table to listen to their dad’s topic of the day. When he’s done, he quizzes the children to know how well they understood the preaching.

The Cialdinis are one of the 500 families despatched abroad by Neocatechumenal Way (NCW), an organisation within the Catholic church that runs seminaries and assigns families to many cities around the world on a religious mission.

Both born and raised in Rome, the Italian couple first met in 1998 when Veronica went back to homebase after completion of her missionary assignment in Israel. Gaetano was working for an IT company in Italy at that time. A year later, the couple got married and three lovely daughters were born.

Ten years later, he quit his job to join the catholic organisation that assigned his family to Ehime prefecture where two of their children were born. Eventually, after the move to Tokyo, five  became seven.

How would you compare raising seven kids in Japan to Italy?
Gaetano: I would say 90% of things here are a lot better than Italy. The Japanese government scholarship system works, there are family restaurants, parks almost everywhere, etc. Shopping for kids’ clothes here is way cheaper than Italy, thanks to H&M, Forever 21, etc. Children’s clothes in Italy are expensive.
Veronica: The sense of community here is amazing. The locals often tell me how they respect me for bringing up a large family. I’m also satisfied with the birthing experience here.

What are the things you don’t like about living here?
Gaetano: Everywhere, there are crimes against children. But compared to Italy, crimes here involve much younger children (kidnapping, etc). Additionally, parking fees and transportation are expensive compared to Ehime.

The Cialdini children attend a Japanese school and speak both Japanese and Italian. They each have different ambitions.

Maria Israel, the eldest of the Cialdini children who doubles as a babysitter when her mum is not available, is presently in Junior High. Her secret desire is to become a flight attendant someday.

Rebecca, 13, the most reserved of the brood says, “I have a special liking for horses. I’m just enjoying school now but I still do not know what job I would like to do after I finish my studies.”

Pasquale, 11, the eldest of the boys in sixth grade, says he’s good at math and wants to become a scientist by all means. While he admits to occasionally being bullied at school, “the teachers are kind to me and that alone makes me feel welcome,” adds Pasquale.

2nd grader Megumi (8) , the only one with a Japanese name in the family, has a penchant for flowers and would like to be a florist in Italy when she graduates in college.


Pilar explaining her homework for the day.

Pilar who just started school this year appears to be the most sociable among the Cialdini children. She took out her homework from her school bag and eagerly talked about the sort of homework she gets on a typical school day.

Despite spending only a couple of hours with the Cialdinis, it actually takes very little time to see that their family dynamics are powered by love, cooperation, and religious values. Veronica and Gaetano are quite a good team , nurturing yet disciplinarians. That attitude spills over to their children.

Do you plan to have more kids?
Veronica: I was able to have this much kids because I started in my early 20s.  Now, I’m older. I had more caesarian birth than normal delivery. But I leave it all to God.

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