Mama mia, you deserve this... so say 17 kids

By Liz Garton

When you have 17 children, 55 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, Mother's Day takes on new meaning.

Italian matriarch Nadina Cassin is head of one of New Zealand's biggest families. She had her first child at 21, 18 months after her marriage to a Kiwi soldier who had begged for her hand while he was stationed in Italy after World War II and then brought her home to Hastings.

"For the next 22 years I only had two and a half hours sleep a night," she says.

Nadina, 80, now lives in Auckland and says some of her children will pop in to see her today. She has cards from those who can't, but she is not expecting big celebrations.

She believes Mother's Day is special, but "my children treat every day like Mother's Day, they respect me and visit me when they can".

In the last year Nadina has become a great-grandmother and says her children are now doing Mother's Days of their own.

Daughter Diana Bennett - the tenth child - believes the best gift a family can give to their mum is to ensure she knows she's appreciated.

"I think my mother feels the same way," says Diane.

Nadina's son John Cassin, who is the eldest son and third eldest child, says family means everything to his mother. "Even when there are family tiffs, we make up quickly and that's thanks to Mum's influence."

All 17 of Nadina's children are born a year apart, with the biggest gap being just under two years.

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