In Her Words
Jon and Kate Plus 4.6 Million
The children didn’t ask for this
The recent drama surrounding stars of the hit show Jon and Kate Plus 8 is nothing new, really: two famous people, one or both of whom are allegedly engaging in clandestine behavior; pictures and descriptions of said behavior are plastered across magazines and ubiquitous on the internet. Even the fact that there are children involved is not groundbreaking (though there are not generally eight children involved.)
What does make this situation different from the other marriage dramas to which we have born witness is our level of intimacy with this family. Those of us who have watched this show from its inception (and while I pride myself on the lack of reality-TV watching in my home, I must count myself in this number) have watched these children potty-train, take baths, misbehave and have fun. . . all the things every normal child in the world has done. These children have been growing up – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with up to four and a half million people watching.
In all honesty, if I found out tomorrow I was going to give birth to sextuplets and TLC knocked on my door and offered me big money to document the first crazy year of their lives, I just cannot say with all certainty that I’d send them packing. It is hard enough some days just finding the money to pay for food, clothes, and park district activities for three children – I can’t fathom trying to pay for eight. I believe in my heart that Jon and Kate made the decision to make their lives public so that they could give their children the lives all of us hope to be able to give our own families.
What has happened since that first hysterical season has probably surprised Jon and Kate the most. I doubt they ever imagined their show would eventually be one of the highest-rated cable shows, or that American families, down to the youngest members, would know each of their children by name. So it happens in modern TV-Land: one day you’re virtually unknown, and the next, cameras are following your every move. And mostly, I am not filled with pity for them.
But those kids! I have been thinking for about two years now that the eight Gosselin children are going to wake up one day and be mighty upset that their every flaw was broadcast nationally. To add insult to injury, the rough patch their parents have hit (and when we set aside our judgments, we can admit we’ve all hit those rough patches, albeit in different ways) is also front and center in American pop culture.
If you do a Google search of Jon and Kate, you will find everything from undying devotion to harsh criticisms of children’s behaviors (some even suggest they need therapy) and condemnation of Kate’s parenting and spousal styles. Those children will someday read things about themselves that no child should ever have to read.
My heart hurts for them – for those eight beautiful, innocent children. They didn’t ask for any of this. They came into the world like every one of our children, and they now live in a fishbowl. I am afraid for them and the effect this publicity will have on their lives.
But my heart also hurts for Jon and Kate. When I compare their family life to my own, two similarities I find are that we have both tried to do what is right for our children, and sometimes we’ve both been wrong. Fortunately for me, when I’ve been wrong, only a handful of people knew it. For the Gosselins, everyone with a TV can pass judgment on their lives.
I couldn’t take the scrutiny.