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All in the family

(L to R - Isaiah, 11 years old; Michaela, 5 years old; Asher, 17 years old; Dan, 46 years old; Magdelena, 8 years old; Sue, 42 years old; Isaac, 13 years old; Abigail, 15 years old)

There’s never a quiet moment at the Ong’s — not with eight people living under one roof. But anything less and the family wouldn’t feel complete. “It would be lonely if I only had three siblings or something,” says Abigail Ong, second-eldest among Dan and Sue Ong’s six children. At fifteen, she is already used to taking care of her siblings, and helping Mum and Dad with household chores such as laundry, cooking and cleaning.

The older siblings pitch in too, while five-year- old Michaela weaves amongst them, practicing cartwheels and handstands she learnt in gymnastics class. “Come here, Michaela,” says Isaac, the third eldest, scooping his sister up for a kiss. She giggles, and for a moment five siblings pause to gaze at the baby of the family. Michaela, oblivious, continues squealing and flailing.

Did we mention — there’s never a dull moment at home either?

If six kids in a five room flat is a squeeze, try fitting everyone into a camper van. That’s what Dan and Sue did two years ago when they took the family on a six-month road trip around the United States. Travelling with eight people means they survived on a tight budget, staying either in their camper van or at friends’ homes, and mainly visiting free attractions. But Mummy Sue did allow the family a small luxury — 108 souvenir magnets to remember the trip.

When fourth child Isaiah was younger, he loved watching his mother cook. “Mummy, can I help you?” he would ask, and her reply would always be the same: “You can help by watching.” 

“Mummy doesn’t like it when I make a mess,” says eleven-year- old Isaiah wryly. Today, however, his culinary endeavours are anything but messy. Isaiah is even allowed free reign of the kitchen once a week, cooking dinner for the family when Dan and Sue go out for date night. “I make macaroni and cheese. And banana cupcakes,” says Isaiah with a toothy grin.

The two youngest girls Magdelena and Michaela learnt how to cycle, rollerblade and swaveboard from their older siblings, who held them steady until they found their footing. “Abigail brought me to the void deck. I held on to the pillar and wiggled wiggled wiggled until I could balance and not fall down,” says eight-year- old Magdelena.

Eldest child Asher enjoys photography, videography and running the family’s social media accounts, which he and Sue started in
2015 to document the family’s road trip. “I want to show what life is like in a big family and challenge the idea in Singapore that family and children are a burden,” he says.

It may be years before the 17-year- old starts a family of his own, but when the time comes, Asher wants a lively household too. “If my wife wants kids, I’d like to have four,” he says.

While Asher is the oldest, the Ongs unanimously agree that Princess Michaela rules the roost. She’s chatty, precocious, and adorable, and it’s clear her siblings dote on her.

“I put her in her place, though,” says Asher. But then he bends over to give her a hug, and it’s clear who’s the boss after all.

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