NZMarch 5th 2013 was Census Day in New Zealand, and it was the first that our boys were really involved with. This was a re-scheduled Census due to the February 22nd (2011) earthquake in Christchurch, which had put the country into a state of emergency. (8th March 2011 had been the original scheduled date)

We hold a Census every five years and it is illegal to not fill in a form or to fill in forms with incorrect information. The data is used by central government, local government, iwi (Maori tribal groups), businesses and community groups for strategic planning and budget allocation. We have the option of filling them out on paper or on line and we can chose to have forms in either English or Maori.

The boys were very excited, and immediately after dinner was cleared away, the one (how does that happen?) blue pen in the house was found. It was heartening to see the older boys both knew their full names, address, previous address, dates of birth etc and the three year-old was able to tell me his full name too. On asking him where he lived, he looked at me as if I had gone insane and said, Here. When I asked him where he used to live, he said matter of factly, “In our town house.” (I must work on that – the other two could easily rattle off their address and phone number at the same age.)

The older boys provided their own giggles when I asked them if they lived with wives and general hysteria abounded when I inquired after their smoking habits. One really wanted me to agree that his religion was, Jedi. The other decided that he didn’t really follow any religion at all. We had a pretty intense discussion regarding Maori, Dutch and Spanish. I pointed out that knowing a few phrases in each did not mean they actually spoke those languages and luckily the instructions supported my stance.

Husband Craig rolled his eyes at the juxtaposition of the bean-counter questions: What job to you do (Building Inspector) and What do you do while you are working at this job? (Inspect Buildings). At the end of his form he declared, There’s half an hour of my life I’ll never get back.

After filling in the dwelling form with all of our full names and ages, I was having fantasies about marrying someone named Smith or Jones and I was pleased that this Census was on this side of my birthday.

Do you have a Census where you live? How involved are your children with the process?

Karyn Van Der Zwet is a mother of three boys. She has had articles printed in the US parenting magazine: ‘Pathways to family wellness” and the journal of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy – Children and Young People. She also writes for her own blog: and can be found at Her book “All About Tantrums” is due out in June this year.

Photo credit to Statistics New Zealand.

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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