Metro-East News

Capitol Dad: Haine clan stands at 7 kids, 27 grandkids — and 3 on the way

Sen. Bill Haine reads to some of his grandchildren in 2012.
Sen. Bill Haine reads to some of his grandchildren in 2012.

How big is state Sen. Bill Haine’s family, and how fast is it growing?

Consider this anecdote:

One day, on the floor of the Illinois Senate, the lawmaker who sits next to Haine rose to make an announcement. A grandchild had just been born in Haine’s family, the lawmaker announced.

The next week, the lawmaker made another announcement: Haine had another new grandchild.

The following week, the lawmaker made yet another announcement: “Senator Haine has not had any grandchildren born this week,” the lawmaker told colleages.

Yes, even folks at the state Capitol know about the rapid growth of the Haine family tree.

Altogether, Haine now has 27 grandchildren — and three more due in the coming weeks.

“There’s a baby due in a week in Michigan, there’s a baby due in July in Fort Meade, Maryland, and there’s a baby due in Pennsylvania in August,” said the Alton senator. “So, it’s looking good. I’ve been blessed beyond measure.”

Haine and his wife, Anna, raised seven children — five daughters and two sons. The children and their spouses include college professors, a school teacher, homemakers, an architect, an orthopedic surgeon, a geophysicist, an Army captain and a business consultant. The Haine children are all adults now, and some have begun raising their own families.

With Father’s Day here, we talked with him about being a dad and granddad.

Is it hard to remember all of those names?

“Oh no, not at all. It really isn’t. I can visualize each one. You have to make an effort to keep in contact, but they’re just the greatest kids,” he said.

He and Anna try to make periodic visits with each of the families at their homes, which are spread across the country — Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois.

“It’s important to maintain a contact,” he said. “You really have to. You have to do it. It’s not a full-time job, but it takes a concerted effort.”

He added, “It’s important to see the children for an extended period when you visit. You just get to know the household, the family. They’re more familiar, they talk with you more if you’re there in the morning, and you say ‘goodnight’ to them, and you have activities with them during the day.”

What advice do you give your children on being parents?

“I don’t offer advice unless asked — that’s one piece of advice I would give. The only specific advice I would give to a young father is to love the child and love the child’s mother, and things will work out.”

He added: “Everyone makes mistakes. I made many mistakes as a father, and I’m sure my children will and have. It’s a human enterprise. But families are very resilient, and children are very forgiving — if they see love in their parents’ eyes, especially the father’s eyes.

“It’s the nature of fathers to be more judgmental. Mothers are less judgmental, I would say. There are exceptions to those rules, but that’s been my observation. If men love their children, the children obviously see that. Children can pick up many feelings and vibes.”

How did you manage to raise seven children without any major trouble or tragedy?

“Every day, I must say, Anna and I are just overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings that we’ve had. I know great fathers and mothers who are devoted to their children, and they love them, but for one reason or another — I don’t know what the reason is — bad things happen. There’s tragic deaths, in addition to drugs or alcohol — I saw all the tragedies and heartaches when I was state’s attorney. I don’t know how we’ve escaped it. That question is cosmic, and I don’t have an answer to it.”

He added: “We’ve had the usual frustrations with children, teenagers especially, and they’ve gotten into trouble — not as serious as I got into — but still trouble. But nothing that would rank on a scale with some of the tragedies and heartaches I’ve seen other families go through. Again, I don’t have an answer for it.”

He says his previous job as state’s attorney of Madison County, the county’s top law enforcer, might have served as encouragement for his children to stay out of trouble. He admits he might have “suggested” to some of his daughters’ boyfriends that police were monitoring their movements.

“The girls knew I was kidding, but the boyfriends did not, which was a healthy deterrent,” he said, half-joking.

Looking back, he said it probably wasn’t easy for his children to have a father serving in the high-profile public role of the county prosecutor.

“I’m sure it had to be a burden for the children,” he said.

What are your children’s political leanings?

“My children are very diverse in their opinions,” he said. “They range from liberal to conservative, and all in between. They don’t mind arguing with me on any question.”

What about Christmas?

Haine said the families try to get together at Christmas, but the logistics make it tough.

The Haines don’t shower the grandkids with Christmas gifts.

“It’s just too much. And we compete with the parents if we do Christmas,” he said. “We tend to do birthdays big.”

The Haines keep a roster of all the birthdays of the grandkids. He has a small version of the document tucked in his wallet.

How is being a grandparent different from being a parent?

“It’s a fun thing to do at our age — to watch them grow up, just as we watched our kids grow up,” Haine said.

He added, “Grandchildren are a wonderful gift, a reward for all the work you’ve done and all the difficulties you’ve had in raising your own kids. Parents have to do all the work. As a grandparent I get to spoil them if I can — and I’ll do it.”

Plans for Father’s Day?

“I’ll take a lot of phone calls, I can tell you that,” he said. “They’ll call all day.”

Haine said he and Anna will probably go to dinner with the family of a daughter who resides locally.

“I’ll do my usual reading. We lead a pretty boring lifestyle.”

Any final thoughts?

“I’m not Doctor Spock. I’m really an average father who’s done the best that I could.”

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 618-239-2475. Follow him on Twitter: @B_Brueggemann.

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