Jon and Kate, It's Not Too Late
- Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I don’t like Facebook, I don’t like to Twitter, I don’t like reality TV, and I don’t like sounding like Andy Rooney. (For you young Twitterers, he is the ancient, cynical satirist on the show 60 Minutes.) Yet I have two grown daughters who love the techno/reality-TV age.
One day my twenty-two-year-old daughter came home from college and wanted me to watch a reality TV show with her. In the past she had tortured me with harsh wardrobe critics of poor, unsuspecting, ill-clad souls and teams of young people living experimentally in commune style, so I was suspect.
This day the reality du jour was a young couple with eight children. “All of my college friends love it,” my daughter said. “It’s because they are Christians and were told that they might have to terminate some of the pregnancies. They refused due to the fact that they believe in the sanctity of life. Our generation thinks that’s really cool.”
How bad can this be? I thought. So I sat through an entire episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. For sixty minutes, we watched this couple trying to get eight kids to eat their veggies, stop whining, brush their teeth, stop whining, get to bed, and stop whining! At the end, Jon and Kate looked overwhelmed and exhausted, and so was I. I thought it was because, as a marital and family therapist who’s been in practice for thirty years, I see reality all day long and would rather watch a southern belle make fattening desserts with lots of butter. But maybe it was because what I saw made me worry about the future of this family.
Kate was the Energizer Bunny, barking orders in a tone that was meant for old Catholic nuns caring for a pack of miscreants, and Jon mostly rolled his eyes and barked orders at the kids. Several seasons later, I found out that my concerns were valid. The Gosselins were in trouble.
In a move uncharacteristic of myself, I began searching the Web to find out more information. Their site had crashed, probably due to well-wishers as well as gossipmongers. I found countless other sites dedicated to the Gosselins’ private lives and read about everything from plastic surgery to rumored affairs. It seemed the public did not have enough drama of their own so they wanted to borrow some from this wounded couple.
While watching the show, I could not help but notice there were plenty of domestics but no grandparents to help Jon and Kate nurture this large brood. I then came across several fan Web sites that discussed Jon and Kate’s parents and watched several episodes in which Kate said that it would not be appropriate for her parents to be involved in the children’s lives. Jon seemed to be equally ambivalent about his mother. One can only surmise (and as I therapist, I surmise a lot) that they wanted to protect their children from some of the pain and struggles they endured in childhood.
The reason I came to this conclusion is because I understood all too well what they might be feeling, and my heart went out to them. As a child reared by a mentally ill mother in rural Tennessee, I, too, felt protective of my children and did not want them exposed to her unhealthy influence. My father could not take her abuse, so he left my three siblings and me to weather the storm without him. Physical abuse was a regular occurrence in my home, but this did not sting nearly as much as the verbal abuse. I carried so much shame that I moved three thousand miles away to go to college in Los Angeles, only to find out that geographic cures do not work. It took years for me to realize that the real cure comes from the Lord. It is His unconditional love that heals our childhood soul wounds and frees our future. The Bible says in Jeremiah 30:17, “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds” (nlt).
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