I’m realizing an annoying thing about 19 Kids and Counting: Last year’s season, where TLC edited the show to basically count down to Michelle Duggar’s miscarriage, was an uncharacteristically dramatic one. When there isn’t an impending death to foreshadow, the footage is unsatisfyingly mundane. Each episode of 19 Kids basically has four minutes of quasi-interesting footage that the editors drop in, almost as an afterthought, after 95% of the episode is devoted to touring the kids’ pantry and closet. (Didn’t we cover all that back in season 1?)
The only interesting parts of last night’s episode “All You Can Eat” happened in the beginning and end, as we visited Michelle with preemie two-year-old Josie, and Michelle’s daughter-in-law Anna let the TLC crew into her house to watch her be a single mother. Even though Anna doesn’t always look awful and glassy-eyed, there’s still a fervent little fire constantly stoked behind those eyes, which makes it creepy when she talks about wanting more kids. The girl is 24 and has already pushed out two kids; she tells the cameramen, “As far as the kids know, there are no baby announcements… but I hope there will be soon. Personally, I’m hoping for twins.” She even crosses her fingers!
It’s not as if her children Mackynzie and Michael aren’t healthy and admittedly pretty adorable. However, watching Anna look ahead to the next crop of kids shows that she’s not only drunk the Duggar Kool-Aid, she’s stuck a straw in it and is sucking away to get every last drop. Why not spend a few years with your children, both under the age of three, instead of wishing to literally double your brood when your husband isn’t home to help? The fact that she already shops for clothing at a consignment store should tell you that she and Josh aren’t rolling in the dough to raise the next generation of Duggars.
At least we haven’t heard Michelle use the B-word yet after miscarrying Jubilee Shalom last year. But I still worry for Josie, who recently turned two but still looks so frail. Because she weighed little more than a pound at birth, Josie has had to receive RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) shots multiple times a year to ensure that she didn’t contract the virus. In only two years, she’s had more shots than any of her siblings ten or twenty years older. So when Michelle takes her to the doctor’s office for her final RSV shot, Josie knows to associate it with pain.
That was for me the saddest part of the episode, seeing Josie start whimpering when they put her up on the changing table. You also caught a glimpse of it in the otherwise uneventful second episode, when a visit to the dentist set off Josie’s pain alarm again. This kid is going to grow up either coddled to within an inch of her life, or deathly afraid of any sort of office because she thinks she’s getting yet another shot.
I’m trying to put my finger on why Michelle’s reaction bothered me. She wasn’t entirely glib, but she also didn’t seem to grasp why these experiences would be so traumatic for her two-year-old daughter. Sure, parents have the perspective to know when their kid is overreacting in relation to pain, but whenever Michelle talks about Josie being born premature, she never acknowledges why this happened, her own major role in this. She just shrugs it, and her daughter’s delayed development, off as part of God’s plan.
At least she wasn’t talking about making Josie’s new brother or sister in front of her. Because even crueler than having to go through this life of pain would be knowing that your parents were planning on inflicting the same discomfort on a new life.
Also, can we talk about how these kids eat like nine meals a day? One of them rattles off the meals as “Breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacktime, snacktime, snacktime, supper, dinner, midnight snack.” How they’re not obese Duggars is beyond me, though you know that’d be like striking gold for TLC.
Photos: TLC and Duggars’ blog