Sunday, July 26, 2009

The 'Plus Eight'

Whether I was pregnant, or just bored in Ross River, the scene looked the same: me, draped on our super cushy couch, legs up, arm over head, remotes (plural) by my other arm or on my chest. Many times, I turned right to TLC to see if my very favourite show was on, because rerun or not, I was enthralled.
Jon and Kate Plus 8 blew my mind. I grew up knowing a family in Ottawa with a girl my age and a set of quints (that's five). The horror stories: trading sleep nights, turning the living room into a jungle gym, five times the feedings, round the clock, that blew my mind. At age 10. So now that I was getting closer to having my own brood started (in singles, let's hope!), I was captivated by viewing what it took to run a house with two sets of multiples. Thankfully, the show really picked up when the younger set of kids were two years old. I fear for the birth rate of the nation if we had all watched poor Jon and Kate struggle through the newborn stage of sextuplets while dealing with toddler twins. Shudder.
That said, I was amazed at how Kate ran the house with faith, love, and near military-like direction and administration. I would finish each episode with a can-do attitude, as in, "If she can do it with eight, I'm confidant I can with one!" Even before everyone in the whole world pointed fingers at her tyrannical rule for the couple's divorce, I justified her organization and strict plans as coping mechanisms for making it through the day with so many young children. Sure, it looked to the audience like Jon was a poor sap, at his wife's mercy. But I also know that editors of TV shows show us what they want. And so many families can relate to such a dynamic.
Sadly, so many more can relate to the family's new dynamic of shared parenting between a divorced couple. It's a pull. As a child, you feel things you shouldn't have to deal with until the rejection of college applications: feelings of inadequacy, desperation for acceptance, loneliness and the last treads of hope that things will turn out OK.
But nobody can relate to these kids: On top of having their world, their family life spun around and turned into a chaotic shuffle, they have to endure it on the continued airing of their TV show.
When I turned on my laptop today, a news headline on my homepage read, "What was Jon Gosselin doing in the Hamptons?" And I thought, "Who cares?." Maybe my curiosity is piqued, but really, I don't care. Why should this information be made available? I may be a youngin, but I know enough about public relations and the media circus to recognize when people are milking their cash cow, and those who are trying desperately to avoid the media. It can be done.
I cried through those two hour-long episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8, when the couple danced around the family tumult and when they finally announced their separation. I cried for their kids, because so much of what they said resurfaced arguments I'd heard, reassurances I'd received when my parents divorced.
On the other side of all of this, each parent is going to be keep being a parent of eight children. In front of the camera or not. And these kids will grow up to have questions. This is part of the makeup of who they are, and a pivotal turning point for all of them on their journey to self-discovery. When they are old enough to ask questions and relate to things in a mature way, what will Jon and Kate answer? Or will the kids begrudgingly turn to copies of their TV show to search for clues?
I would hope that instead of high-living in the Hamptons, these parents can go below the radar to heal their family. You only get one shot at this.

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