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 22-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 this couple trying to get eight kids to eat their veggies, and stop whining, brush their teeth, and stop whining, get to bed, and stop whining! At the end, John and Kate looked overwhelmed and exhausted, and so was I. I thought it was because, as a marital and family therapist for thirty years, I see reality all day long and would rather watch an over weight southern belle make fattening deserts 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 John mostly rolled his eyes and barked orders at the kids. Several seasons later, I found out that my concerns were valid. The Gosslins were in trouble.
In a move uncharacteristic of me I began to search the web to find out more information. Their site had crashed, probably due to well wishers as well as gossip mongers. I found countless other sites dedicated to the Gosselin’s private lives and read about everything from plastic surgery, to rumored affairs. It seemed the public does 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 that there were plenty of domestics but no grandparents to help them nurture this large brood. I then came across a site* that shared why. It said, “Why is Kate Gosselin estranged from her parents? Kate's parents are Charlene and Kenton Krieder, who had six kids. Kate, the second oldest, was born when her mom was only 17. They live in a trailer park and people say there are each missing a number of teeth and have no education. It would seem that she and John are embarrassed by them.” The site went on to say that on one episode Kate said that it would not be appropriate for her parents to be involved in the children’s lives. John seemed to be equally ambivalent about his mother, saying that she had remarried and had a very busy life. He does, however, speak very nicely about his late father… It would appear that they would want a better upbringing for their children than they had.
My heart went out to this couple because I understood this all too well. As a child reared by a mentally ill mother in rural Tennessee, I too felt protective for my children and did not want them exposed to her unhealthy influence. My father could not take her abuse, so he left me and my three siblings to weather the storm without him. Physical abuse was a regular occurrence in my home, but this did not sting nearly as bad as the verbal abuse. I carried so much shame that I move 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 heal thee of thy wounds and restore health unto thee.”
I, along with my husband Tom, write about our painful pasts and how the Lord healed us and helped us have successful careers as therapists and be healthy parents to our two grown daughters, in our newest book, Becoming a Family That Heals by Focus on the Family/Tyndale. (Release Date September, 2009). There are six Healing Premises in the book. Here are two that can really speak to John and Kate’s situation: 1. Whether you believe it or not your childhood does affect your adult relationships. 2. To the degree you have been wounded you can wound or be wounded by those closest to you.
I watched as Kate bossed John and John bossed the kids. This generational pattern does not have to continue. My message to the Gosselins is, “God can heal the shame and wounds of your past and the wounds of the present in your marriage. He can be both a mother and father to both of you if they will only let Him. John and Kate, it is not too late and I know of at least eight wonderful reasons why!