anne_mikolay_2012_120While I was flipping the television dials, I came across a TLC program profiling an Arkansas couple with twenty children. My initial reaction was “they’re nuts!” I have since learned that “Twenty Kids and Counting” is a TLC reality program. Reality? My jaded self thinks not.

Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar live in a 7,000 square foot home they allegedly built debt free. Michelle dedicates herself to the overwhelming task of daily caring for her children, who range in age from toddler to twenty-something, while Jim-Bob brings home the bacon necessary to support such a brood. Born in the mid-60s and married in 1984, the Duggars are devout Christians. They do not allow television, cell-phones, i-pads, or any of the other technological luxuries we are accustomed to in their home. They shop at the Good-Will and thrift boutiques for clothing; hand-me-downs, naturally, are a staple in their wardrobe. They are taught modesty in all things and decorum in behavior; the children wear home-made bathing suits and are not permitted to kiss their chosen mates until the wedding day. TLC viewers are to believe this family is content with evening sing-alongs (each family member has a favorite Christian tune and Bible verse), and not one Duggar offspring is mortified to swim in a bathing suit circa 1920? Not one Duggar was embarrassed traipsing through the streets of New York in matching outfits reminiscent of The Sound of Music? The Duggars live pristine lives that make the Amish look racy; I scoffed and laughed through most of the TLC program.

Twenty kids is unbelievable! That’s twenty cases of colic. Twenty bouts of the terrible twos as well as adolescent angst (occurring at the same time!). Twenty orthodontist and pediatrician bills. Twenty Christmas lists. Twenty college tuitions. Twenty times the expense, the sleepless nights, the worry, the gray hair. And goodness! Doesn’t the bottom fall out after twenty offspring? Can you imagine spending an evening in the Duggar household? It would be utter chaos. When the TLC program ended, I decided the Duggars were either great actors or downright certifiable.

The Duggars don’t live in the real world. And yet…they seem happy. How could a family of twenty that shops bargain basements and always has a bill to pay be happy? If television’s profile of the Duggars is accurate, the answer is simple. The Duggars are happy because they do not live in the real world. They are not besieged by technology; they do not have cell phones glued to their ears. The children do not cave to peer pressure or succumb to media manipulation; they are unfamiliar with Jersey Shore and trash TV. The Duggars do not engage in fierce competition; they surround themselves with people who have similar Christian values. Society does not steer the Duggar ship; God does. Yes. As corny as that sounds, the Duggars are a Christian family expressing Christian values. They dedicate themselves to Psalm 127: “Children are a blessing from the Lord.” The Duggars are happy because they do not live in our crazy world.

Of course, one does not have to have twenty children, or any children for that matter, to live a Christian life. One does not have to dress like the Von Trapp family and sing in the hills to be happy. But it sure would be nice if we all followed the Duggars’ example and lived a gentler life.

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I am not laughing at the Duggars anymore. They have created a sweet, peaceful life for themselves. That’s not certifiable. It’s enviable.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...