Monday, December 1, 2008

"Don't Sweat The Small Stuff!"

Recently, I was asked what I would entitle a reality show based on my family's day-to-day life and, immediately, this phrase came to mind: "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff!"
But, I'll come back to that later.

What prompted that question was another, even more interesting question: What do I think of reality shows about large families?
Hey, like a lot of moms out there, I am addicted to most of TLC's programming: Jon and Kate Plus 8, 17 Kids and Counting, etc. It's difficult not to get hooked!

To begin with, I believe these shows came about for the same reason Barnum & Bailey trotted out the Bearded Lady at every stop: Morbid Curiosity.
After all, in the last 20 years, larger (more than 4 children) families have become increasingly rare. People are curious as to the "how's" and "why's" of the large-family-dynamic. I, myself, like to see how other larger-than-average families handle daily life.

Shows like "Jon and Kate...", while fascinating, bother me, though. While I applaud Jon and Kate for accepting two groups of multiples (twins and sextuplets) into their lives, I disagree with many of they ways they choose to handle their marriage and their family.
For example, as much as Jon and Kate say that other couples speak to each other the way they do (i.e. RUDELY), it's unhealthy; it is disrespectful to your spouse and it sets a very bad example for your children. If you watch the show, then you know that they have at least one child who speaks to them like she owns them. They excuse/explain this behavior by attributing it to her personality. Really? Well, who has a major impact on the formation of personality? I'll tell you who: parents.
Also, while they qualify as a large family due to the sheer number of people, Jon and Kate readily admit that it was never their intention to have as many kids as they do. In fact, I have seen several episodes in which they are practically apologizing to their twins because they have six other siblings; (I'm paraphrasing here) "The older girls get frustrated by the little kids. It's not fair that they have to deal with them running around all the time".
Both parents seem constantly bothered and conflicted about how to parent their brood. Their attitude reflects the feeling that because there are "so many" kids, that each child is some how deprived of the material things that "normal" kids have.
They are trying to parent many kids as if they have only one or two kids. I'm going to go out on a limb and state that this approach won't work.
And, I haven't even touched on Kate's severe control issues (good luck with hormonal teens!) or Jon's tendency to sulk and mutter insults.
It probably sounds like I don't like Jon and Kate as people, let alone as a TV show. But, I DO think that if they were my neighbors, I'd have a good time chatting and visiting with them. I like watching their TV show and seeing the cute things the kids do and say. And, I realize that these episodes are brief, edited snapshots of their lives, not the complete picture. So, maybe I'm not being fair.

So, to keep things even, back to my still-in-the-works reality show...

What would viewers see every week?
More than a few messes, lots of laundry, sometimes Mom yelling, barking dog, kids fighting, kids playing, kids play-fighting, singing, eating, driving, sometimes Dad giving stern looks, laughing, and lots of love.

A house with two adults, five kids, and one dog can be hectic and crazy. In fact, it almost always is a little nuts around here!
But, it can also be very peaceful, soothing, and cheerful. And, that happens at least once a day, some days even more than once!

Because, over the years, and with the addition of each child, my husband and I have learned not to sweat the small stuff.
And, for us, it really was a learned behavior.
I had to learn to accept the fact that kids aren't mini-adults and almost always behave like children. I had to learn that I wouldn't be able to attend every social function to which I was invited. My husband had to learn that it's OK to leave a basket of laundry un-folded for more than 3 minutes. He had to learn that, in order to facilitate his children's friendships, he had to extend himself socially every once in a while.

In the grand scheme of things, these are just small things. They don't really amount to much when compared to the larger things in life, such as teaching children to be polite and loving to each other, making it to church every week, eating dinner together every night, grieving together openly when one member has passed on, and rejoicing together in one member's good fortune.

Hey, unlike Kate, I don't really care if my daughter gets her dress dirty as long as she was kind to her brother while she played with him. And, when my husband comes home from work and has to navigate his way through toys and books on the floor, he only sees the happy faces who are excitedly greeting him.

Now that I think of it, I don't really want all those cameras blocking my view of my flawed, but very loving family. So, all you TLC producers can just knock on another family's door!

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