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Tonio Fenech

MR TONIO FENECH was appointed as Minister of Finance, Economy and Investment on March 12, 2008.  Mr Fenech shared his experience about parenthood with RAMONA PORTELLI. 
Interview conducted July 2011
Introduce yourself [where do you live, age, occupation, hobbies]
We live in Balzan, I'm 42 years old and I am Malta's Minister of Finance but not my home's.  That role is assumed by Claudine - my wife.  What really relaxes me is a good film, but my greatest passion is football, with my favourite team being Arsenal.
How long have you been married?
I have been married for 13 years to Claudine.
How many kids do you have? What are their names and ages?
I have two wonderful kids, Carl who is 9 years old and Lara who is 6.

What were your first thoughts when you both got to know you’re becoming parents for the very first time?
It was a very exciting moment, and you feel like telling all the world.

How did you involve yourself during your wife’s pregnancy?
I went for all the medical visits and all the parental course.  But the greatest moment is seeing the baby being born and as the father cutting the umbilical cord.  You then follow the midwife to wash the baby and you quickly realise this immense sense of responsibility and the dependency of the life you hold in your hands.  All the fears and concerns at that moment pass away and you simply do what needs to be done.
In your opinion, how do you describe a great parenthood?
That's a very difficult question, as in today's world we seem to have so little time for my children.  We excuse ourselves trying to give quality time, but kids also just want to be with you, around you.  Although not easy, I try to be around as much as possible.  The good parenthood certificate is awarded to you by your kids, and to date I have done my best to deserve it.
Can you name one thing or more, that makes your children unique and that you won’t forget throughout the years?
Well they are unique and special for Claudine and myself, but I am sure for the rest of the world they are sweet very normal kids.  I won't forget the special moments we spend together especially when we went to Disney World: we were four very excited kids.

You are a very busy political person. How do you manage to be a good father?
I don't agree with the notion that to be in politics one has to abandon his family.  I want to be there for my kids and I will be very frank they are more important to me then whatever else I do.  I do my best to take them to school every day, be at home for lunch with them and spend all the possible time in the weekends with them.  This is not always as possible as much as I desire, but I work hard on it.
Are you planning to have more kids in the near future?
Both Claudine and myself come from families of three kids.  However can't say we really gave it a thought.
Do you dream of something particular that you wish your children will do in their future? 
Not really, I think like every person you hope to contribute towards moulding them into responsible individuals, that share and appreciate your values, well educated, and empowering them to be in the best position to realise their dreams.  However most of all to be persons of integrity and generous.
What suggestions can you share with our readers for a better childhood in Malta?
Give time to your children.  Today with more both parents working, kids still need us more then their nanna’s and child minders can never replace us parents.  Also, screens like TV and digital games can be easy baby sitters but kids need to play, draw, move, interact, read, express themselves and so we need to be disciplined enough to resist the temptation to simply say yes to more screens.  Also, we need to have the time and patience to talk with our kids and show them we are listening.
Is there any favourite part about your children’s school experiences?
I do my best to go with Claudine to all the parents' days, events, sports days, plays etc.  They are beautiful moments and I am always very sad when because of travel I have to miss one. 

What do you think is the most important thing that the children learn in their classrooms?
To interact with other children and make friends.  It is beautiful how to see children develop.  There are days when they want to stay at home like all kids I suppose, and having to do rather then wanting.  But both are doing well and like to learn.  However I must stress that unless what children do in class is supported at home, by being with them to study and read, much of what they do at school academically is lost.
What is your method of discipline as a father?
I try to talk the kids through an issue, I don't like threatening with a punishment for every naughty thing they do or might do, and so rarely do I resort to punish.  We have two good kids, although I put that a lot on Claudine, who spends most of the time with them and has to maintain discipline.  When we really have to punish its down to say prohibiting screens for a day or two, which is very effective far more then a shout or telling off.

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