Dluxe's World

Tuesday, September 5

A study in contrasts

Last night, Eva and I were sitting in the living room recovering from our weekend of camping with the kids. I had flipped on the TV since Eva was using the laptop and channel-surfed until I hit TLC. They were broadcasting a series of shows regarding the Duggar family, so we half-watched for a couple hours.

The Duggars are considered to be the largest nuclear family in the US, if not the largest family by any standards. Jim Bob and Michelle started having kids in 1988 and haven't stopped yet... Currently, they're sitting at 16. Yes, sixteen. The photo here shows the family in 2004 when there were only 14 kids in the clan.

Whatever your personal convictions are about having such a huge number of kids*, you couldn't help but be impressed with the Duggars as you watched. The children were all polite, considerate, well-spoken, and seemed responsible/mature for their ages. Their family is intensely organized and disciplined with days planned carefully to ensure that the things that need gettin' done actually get done. Both the house and the children were clean - which is a miracle for any household consisting of more that 2 people. Above all, it was obvious that everyone (kids especially) felt loved, happy, and had their food/clothing/etc needs met. Even though you and I might think 16 kids is over the top, there's not a lot else you could villify about them... Right?

Wrong. Eva searched the net looking for the Duggar's websites, at least partly because I was curious whether they were Christian or Mormon (yes, I know Mormons think they're Christians). You won't believe the amount of vitriolic crud that's being flung at these people simply because they have a lot of kids. Not that I'm surprised given the source, but check out this from the SF Gate. Some 'highlights':
[It would be mean] and callous to suggest that this might be the most disquieting photo you see all year, this bizarre Duggar family of 18 spotless white hyperreligious interchangeable people with alarmingly bad hair, the kids ranging in ages from 1 to 17, worse than those nuked Smurfs in that UNICEF commercial and worse than all the horrific rubble in Pakistan and worse than the cluster-bomb nightmare that is Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise having a child as they suck the skin from each other's Scientological faces and even worse than that huge 13-foot python which ate that six-foot alligator and then exploded.

It's wrong to be this judgmental. Wrong to suggest that it is exactly this kind of weird pathological protofamily breeding-happy gluttony that's making the world groan and cry and recoil, contributing to vicious overpopulation rates and unrepentant economic strain and a bitter moral warpage resulting from a massive viral outbreak of homophobic neo-Christians across our troubled and Bush-ravaged land. Or is it?
...
Ah, but this is America, yes? People should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want with their families if they can afford it and if it's within the law and so long as they aren't gay or deviant or happily flouting Good Christian Values, right? Shouldn't they? Hell, gay couples still can't openly adopt a baby in most states (they either lie, or one adopts and the other must apply as "co-parent"), but Michelle Duggar can pop out 16 kids and no one says, oh my freaking God, stop it, stop it now, you thoughtless, selfish, baby-drunk people.

It's nice to see the author admits that being judgemental is wrong... *grumble*

Just as Eva and I got ready to turn in, I just scanned south with the remote and came across ABC Family which was airing an episode of the hit show, Super Nanny. If you watch as little TV as Eva and I do, you might not know about the Super Nanny... The reality-TV hit features Jo Frost, a real-life nanny who visits struggling families to help them get control of their kids and lives. I've only watched snippets of couple episodes, but I think overall Ms. Frost does good work... She identifies the areas of trouble, sees through the (poor) smoke-and-mirrors the family often tries to put up, and gives tips for making real change.

Last night's syndicated episode featured the Silva family - a blended family of 7 kids ranging in age from 1 to 17, plus (step)Mom & (step)Dad. Here's some summaries of the episode:
The Silvas are a "Yours, Mine and Ours" family spiraling out of control. Tom and Danielle each have two children from previous marriages, and they have three children together -- the age range is six months (Caden) to 17 years (Meghan).

Tom works all week away from the family in the Army National Guard, and soon he'll be deployed to Iraq for a year and a half. In his absence, Danielle, who is very disorganized, allows the children to run amuck. The kids curse openly with no consequences, and there's a lot of negative talk from the parents, which has trickled down to the kids as well.

Dad and Meghan's relationship needs repair before he leaves for the war, and Jo senses that Danielle is presenting a false "June Cleaver" persona... (from ABC's site)
I couldn't believe that Mom was paying so little attention to the kids that she let the 1 1/2 year old go outside with the one girl, and she left her there. She wouldn't have known she was gone if not for Jo. She was too busy on her fake cleaning spree. The girl could have left the 1 1/2 year old in the road or somewhere else dangerous. Thank God she was safe.

I was shocked when I saw the little five year old kid tell her sister to "Shut The F**k up". I also couldn't believe when the one young girl went up to Jo and told her that her sister said that Jo was bullsh*t. We obviously know where they got it from. I couldn't believe when the mom went to the kids' bedroom (the door was locked), and told them to "Open the MF'ing door", and then was talking on the phone right next to her daughter saying the F word left and right. You would think she would have toned it down when she knew Jo was watching. I think Jo's Trash Talk chart was a great idea. It was funny how Meghan had went ahead and taken all of her mouths down. (from Fans of Reality TV, emphasis mine)

I would be wicked hesitant hold myself up as a model parent... Any positive credit for our kids belongs to two people: God, for His unbelievable grace towards our family, combined with my wife's substantial skill and tireless devotion. If I'm even a passable parent, that's a miracle of the highest type... Still, I think I could be the Super Nanny - er, gender aside. The issues of every family she visits boil down to problems in the same four areas over and over: Consistent Discipline, Parental Modelling of Expected Behavior, Good Organization, and Family Love/Communication.

I'll admit to being a nurture over nature kinda person. I'm not saying that there's not some hard-coded-DNA stuff that helps define who we are, but I think that the way we are raised greatly influences how those predispositions manifest themselves. And I think the Super Nanny would agree... What we put into our kids is directly linked to what fruit will come from them.

It literally made my neck hurt observing the stark contrast between the villified Duggars and the 'normal' families on presented on reality TV. So, here's my question... While you can make a case that 7 kids is way less that the Duggars prodigious 16, where is the outrage at the 'breeder' families like this? Moreover, where is the condemnation of the poor parenting on display week in and week out in this show (no matter the family size)?

Those of you who know me can imagine how rant-y this makes me, so I'll try to steer this post to a close. I'm just saddened that we have well-adjusted, happy kids on one hand who find their family under attack while we have families out of control on the other that are viewed as normal (or simply 'stressed'). I don't care what number of kids you have: Once you have any, you have assumed the responsibility of parenting them. We live in a culture that appends children to your exisiting lifestyle, much like one might add a nice handbag or jacket to your existing wardrobe.
They're just an accessory, after all...

When some folks see large families, they knee-jerk that something must be wrong... The kids must be attention-starved or forced to live some cookie-cutter life where their individuality is stomped... All the while we ignore that those same things happen in families with one kid. Heck, it even happens to spouses in some dysfunctional marriages sans childre. The Bible says that children are a gift from God... While some take this to mean "the more, the merrier", I'd simply point out that each child is infinitely precious. Your responsibility as a parent is to bring them up well, whether you have one or twenty.

/sarcasm switch on
But the Duggars are to blame. They live debt-free, put tons of dollars into the economy, raise their kids to be responsible/polite/caring, and bother no-one. How dare they?!?

Tonight, I'm challenging our family to just chuck the whole thing. If we don't try real hard, maybe we can be part of the anti-Duggar-solution... And maybe we'll be on TV someday.
/switch off

*Personally, I don't think big families are a 'must', even though I love kids and could easily envision being buried in them (assuming any diapers have been recently changed). But I can see, believe it or not, merits to big families that I think society overlooks out of bias. Whatever size your family is or will be, I hope that you'll at least make your kids a priority in your life - though not the priority. Give them the best you have to give, and trust God for blessing your efforts to glorify Him through your parenting.

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