Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Duggars

For me, the Duggar family is one part car wreck one can't help to stare at, and the other part inspirational book on parenting. They're a combination of the freakish and the awe-inspiring. In case you have no idea who/what I'm talking about, The Duggars have 19 children, and the wife is now expecting their 20th child. She's is 45 and has given birth to all of them.

I think for many infertiles, the Duggars are a smack in the face. An enormous, multiplying and grotesque reminder of what we can't have. It's almost like there are only so many pregnancies to go around, and she's claiming way more than her fair share. There are feelings of doubt about the parents' ability to parent and parent well so many children.

But here's the thing...The Duggars, well, they are some of the most calm, loving, and consistent parents I've ever observed. Of course they're on television and have control over the editing of their show. But look at some of the other reality shows (i.e. that crazy Kate plus 8 chic). The truth about who they are and how they parent seems to become obvious.

But all we consistently see on the Duggars (yeah, I do watch it whenever I just happen to catch it - again, it's that whole car accident that you can't look away from kind of thing) is calmness, and consistency, and gentle redirection. There's no raising of voices. There's no spanking. Or even time outs. They make a point of spending one-on-one time with each child regularly.

And here's what it boils down to...they are consciously making a choice to be open to what God has in store for them. They are financially responsible for the entirety of their family, relying on no more "assistance" than I do. They spend a ton of family time together. All the children appear confident, healthy, developmentally on par, and happy. The older ones are becoming contributing members of society, holding jobs and expressing a responsibility for and desire to help others. I don't know that there is anything else I could want for my own children.

So why do we judge the Duggars so harshly? They are parenting well. Really well. In truth, one of my wishes is that when I "grow up" I will be half as calm, gentle, loving, patient, and trusting in my children's ability to be self-sufficient as the Duggars are. Do I wish that I could get pregnant and have a couple babies the "easy" way? Hell yes, I do. But the Duggars living that reality doesn't make my dream any less likely (I mean, really, it's already unlikely). Their pregnancies and children does not affect my ability to have children or parent. Can I feel jealousy at her ease in conceiving? Yes I can. I can also really relate to her desire for  and absolute love of children.

So, I think we should lay off the Duggars. Yeah, her uterus may be old, dusty and about to fall out (as hubby asserts), but it's her uterus and she gets to chose what to do with it. And as long as the Duggar children are loved and well taken care of, well, we have no say so in the matter.

Today's lesson: here's one - of several actually - I learned from the Duggars. Praise your children publicly and redirect them privately. They are frequently seen to praise their children on the show, but only very rarely redirect/discipline them.  None of us wants to be disciplined in front of others. What a beautiful way to teach our children about respect - by first giving it to them.


areyoukiddingme said...

I like your take on this. My main problem with the Duggars is that they have a reality TV show. not fond of people with reality TV shows. But you're right - they do model good parenting and a very wholesome family image. They have dealt with adversity, and they seem to all have a good sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

I love this post :). I've seen hate directed Michelle Duggar's way and it's so unfair, in my opinion. And I absolutely love her style of discipline - she's so gentle and calm! I am definitely working on being more like her in that regard. Which means right now, not yelling at the dog so Isaac doesn't have to hear my "angry" voice.
I'd totally have 12 kids if I could, anyway. I grew up in a big family (6 kids) and I always wanted a big family myself, but infertility made me even more open to lots of kids. Makes me wish adoption weren't so expensive, because it seems like less and less of a possibility :(.

Anonymous said...

People really do unleash an amazing amount of vitriol on Michelle Duggar and her uterus. I do think that by televising their lives, they open themselves up to a certain amount of criticism. But what gets thrown Michelle Duggar's way too often seems over the top and very, very gendered. Her reproductive choice is just as protected and important as everyone else's, I figure. (I don't watch the show so I can't speak to what actually goes on in their family.)

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I really like your take on it. I don't really know what to think of the Duggars. On one hand, as a woman who has had a premature birth, I would hate the public to dictate whether or not I should attempt pregnancy again based on that premature birth. But... Well, I could unpack the "buts" all night.

E. Phantzi said...

I've never watched the show, but now I might :-)

roddma said...

There are things the Duggars don't tell you. They are Independent Baptist Fundamentalist who follow the teachings of Bill Gothard. These teachings leave little room for individualality and promote a perfectionists attitude that almost becomes a competition among Christians. I can't explain it all here. You will need to do your own research. I use to be a fan myself until learning about their beliefs. The Duggars are an anomally in their circles. True they maybe have been fine before the show but their lifestyle would not be at the current level. It is nothing against big families but how they keep some things hidden