The 18th Duggar

The other night Ashley and I got a surprise evening off as Allie and Avery spent the night with their Ga Ga, and we used our time for a nice dinner out. Not that we don't enjoy having the girls around, but every once in a while it's nice to have a little alone time with each other outside of the normal nightly routine. As we were enjoying our peach pie Ashley mentioned that the Duggar family had just announced they were expecting their 18th child in January of 2009. I had actually heard someone mentioning the Duggars on the morning news as I packed lunches for Ashley and Allie(Sinkhole in Arkansas? No, The Duggars are pregnant again!). Since the morning timeline dictated our need to get out the door for school I missed it, and so Ashley filled me in.

The Duggars are internationally famous for churning out 17 kids, as well as being the subject of several documentaries on cable channels such as Discovery and TLC. Parents Jim-Bob (yes, Jim-Bob) and Michelle Duggar, after a miscarriage resulting from birth control pills, went on to birth 10 boys and 7 girls ranging in age from 20 years to 9 months old, all through natural means. The Duggars are very upfront about their evangelical faith, which includes an obvious Pro-Life stance and the belief that families should have as many children as God will allow otherwise referred to as the Quiverful Movement. On their web page you will find the verse Psalms 127:3 stating, "Children are a heritage of the Lord..." with the U.S. Flag behind it.

The kids, Joshua, Jana & John-David (twins), Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah & Jeremiah (twins), Jason, Justin, Jackson and Johannah (seeing a pattern here?), live in a 7000 square foot home located in Arkansas, where their parents were also real estate agents, and Jim-Bob served in the State Legislature. The kids are home-schooled, but in the event they need to get around, a 21 passenger bus stands ready outside. Despite the fact that 17 hungry mouths can consume more than a plague of locust, the Duggars have relied on very disciplined financial planning which has also allowed them to build and own their home.

Obviously, for such a large family, regular routines are key in maintaining order. The children have duties of course, but sometime the parents mix things up a bit having the boys and girls switch traditional roles. The girls might mow the lawn or clean the garage, while the boys cook and clean. There is also a buddy system with the older children being assigned a younger sibling to assist with getting fed or teaching school lessons. Another guideline (and my favorite), is the use of a sign-up sheet on the fridge in the event one of the kids feels they need some alone time with either of the parents.

Let me say up front, lest anyone misinterpret what I'm about to write. I am Pro-Life (99% of the time), I share many of the same religious beliefs as the Duggars and I take great delight in my children. I have three boys under the age of 9 and will soon have 2 step-daughters under the age of 6. I feel blessed God has seen me fit to be a part of their lives, but at the same time, I have to wonder if popping out 17.5 kids is really a responsible thing to do as a parent?

When Ashley told me about number 18, my first reaction was to call a couple guys (one a licensed physician), put on ski masks and drive like mad to the Natural State in order to nab Mrs. Duggar so we could weld her shut (guess we'll have to wait till 2009 now). I mean the tensile strength of her uterus has to be on par with that of the waist band on my lucky underwear from high school - she could snap at any given moment and number 18 might just do the trick. After Ash and I finished laughing over my far-fetched fantasy, we started discussing how anyone could effectively parent if the older kids were filling that role to a large extent. We also questioned whether the whole thing really helped out the image of evangelicals, and Pro-Choice proponents in the eyes of others.

I mean, the dad's name is Jim-Bob, they are from Arkansas, they cite religion as a motivation for the number of children, they home school, and they are not shy about pushing their beliefs in the media. Part of that was meant to be tongue in cheek, but in another sense, it also sounds like the stereotype fronted in today's media about red-neck, religious nut-jobs. The same nut-jobs that blow up abortion clinics and start polygamist cults in the hills of Texas, which is not to say the Duggars are engaged in these types of actions, but the perception is there. I took a little time to browse the comment boards attached to the News Networks coverage of the Duggars, and there were strong comments marking the disgust felt by some that the Duggars would exploit child birth in the name of God. I want to be careful not to be judgemental, but it did bring to mind Matthew 5 where we are told to be the light of the world, but cautioned to do it in a way that brings glory to the Father (v. 15) and not ourselves. I had to wonder if parading 17.5 kids around in front of all the world was bringing attention to God or to the Duggars, and, if they are bringing attention to God, is it the right attention? I don't know.

My personal issue centers on the amount of time the parents get to spend with each child. I think about the time I get to spend with my boys who live in Indiana and who I'm desperately trying to find a way to move closer to. Since the times so limited every minute is precious, and I try to impart as much as I can, but I know it's not enough. How special could a child feel in a family so large? In some respects it sounded more like an orphanage - albeit a loving one - but an orphanage where the mother's image is closer to that of an elementary teacher while dad is more like the school principle. I don't question the parent's love, but I wonder how much they have when it comes to spreading themselves around. For me, I'm happy with what I've been given which is more than I thought I'd ever have, but in any case that's where I need to focus. The Duggars can go on to have 25 booger-eaters and they can be responsible for what they've been charged.

Note: As I understand it, there is an unofficial contest for naming The 18th Duggar... that sounds like a movie title....hmmmmm? "From the makers of Cheaper By The Dozen, and Cheaper By The Dozen 2 comes a Costco-sized, film for the whole family...The 18th Duggar! staring Jon Heder... Oh, right - naming contest. Here's my nominations:

Jeeze-Louise (girl)
Jezebel (girl, it's in the Bible!)
Jochebed (girl, Moses's mother, it's in the Bible too!)

Jee-Thang (girl or boy)

Jim-Bob Jr (boy - what are they waiting for?)
Jesus (boy - pronounced Hey-Zoos, as in Hey-Zoos Miguel Duggar), and my favorite

Jeorge Foreman Duggar!

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