Three large, real-life families have been in the news this year. Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets, bringing her total brood to fourteen; the stars of John & Kate + 8 had their image tarnished when John was caught out over night with another woman, bringing to light their feuding over Kate’s domineering attitude and John’s dissatisfaction with the media’s intrusion into their life; and the Duggar family of Arkansas released a book about their family’s history and life, following the birth of their 18th child in December.
There was a story in the newspaper last week about Nadya “Octomom” Suleman, where she admitted that she had “made mistakes,” though she didn’t specify what exactly one of those mistakes might have been. Was it having all of these children with a man to whom she’s never been married? (We have her word on it that all 14 kids have the same father.) Was it having these kids with a man who is in fact already married…to someone else? Was it having fourteen children when she herself has no steady source of income?
At any rate, she has recently agreed to star in a reality TV show. I’m sure that’ll do her kids some good. (sarcasm alert!)
I certainly do not condone any of the acts of violence against her that have been reported, but neither will I shrink from condemning the “lifestyle choices” of anyone if those choices are demonstrably harmful to children. Her vague admission of “mistakes” reminds me of a clip I saw from the Dr. Phil show once where the family of Ozzy Osbourne went on to simultaneously make teary confessions of their tragic failures as a family, and denounce anyone who dared to criticize them for their tragic failures as a family. It’s all about integrity, isn’t it, Sharon?
Speaking of reality TV, I’ve never seen an episode of John & Kate + 8, but apparently the attraction for viewers isn’t seeing a large, young, dynamic family in action so much as it is to watch the fireworks between mismatched John and Kate. Whether or not they break up, if their high-profile and volatile home environment continues, one must wonder how it will affect the children. For the better, perhaps? No doubt. Hollywood has a long history of turning out well adjusted children from dysfunctional celebrity parents. (another sarcasm alert!)
That leaves us with the Duggar family, the one that has probably received the most dismissive criticism from most of the mainstream media, and the only of these three currently famous families that’s not only stable but wildly successful. Their fun, funny, and pragmatic recent book is a joy–a treasure trove of silly stories about little kids, quick recipes for a dozen or more servings, simple and un-preachy advice for family faith and finances, and tons of contributions from the kids themselves, who tell us about their hobbies, chores, and dreams. In short, it’s a celebration of what could and should be the ideal, average American family.
On their own reality TV shows, the Duggars demanded to maintain tight controls, such as never having their faith whitewashed or edited from the show. According to their book, the crew has come to greatly respect the Duggars, and interacts with them as friends. Will the same be true of Nadya Suleman or John and Kate?
Elite critics may scoff and scorn, but I’ve yet to see a legitimate problem for which the Duggars can be criticized. They live debt free, their children are all talented in music, business, or crafts, and they have honorably contributed to their community in many ways. How could any of these be a bad thing?
Rest assured that, a hundred years from now, when the total “success” of each family is added up, in terms of jobs and income produced (versus payments given from the public or spent on jail or rehab), in terms of service to their communities (as opposed to burdensome use of resources without giving anything back), and in terms of setting a positive example for others (instead of merely titillating people’s worst instincts and dragging standards down), there’s no doubt who will have created by the far most enduring legacy. Once again, God bless the wonderful Duggar family.
I hope for the best for Nadya Suleman and for John and Kate. But make no mistake, “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” There are ways to raise a family that will be best for children, and ways for them to grow up that will almost surely hurt them. I hope that any families that are on a negative path will turn around and make the necessary changes.
If anyone wants a role model to inspire them, I can’t think of anyone to recommend better than the Duggars.