Will ‘19 Kids and Counting‘ ever have to undergo another title change?
That all depends on how God feels about it. That’s the word from Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, parents of the ’19 Kids’ referred to in the title of their TLC series, which for more than six years has chronicled the everyday lives of this jumbo-sized Arkansas family.
The title has undergone several alterations – every time this fertile family of nine girls and 10 boys added a new baby, the number in the title grew by one. However, the number stays at 19, for now, as the show’s fourth season continues Tuesday night (9 p.m./8c on TLC) with two new half-hour episodes, the first new installments of ’19 Kids’ since last May.
The new episodes begin with the return home of the newest Duggar – eight-month-old Josie Brooklyn Duggar – who was born nearly three months premature last December and then spent the better part of six months in a Little Rock hospital struggling with complications from her birth. In a phone interview from their sprawling home in Springdale, Ark., Jim Bob and Michelle report that little Josie is doing fine. In the wake of Josie’s difficulties, will the Duggars have even more children? Heaven knows.
Here’s what this devout and deeply Christian couple had to say – about parenthood, faith and reality TV.
Michelle, how is Josie doing today at eight months old? And what can you tell us about her personality?
At this point, she’s 11 pounds, one ounce, but back then she weighed one pound, six ounces when she was born. Oh, my, Josie is a happy baby. She’s so sweet. She smiles all the time now and she just hardly ever cries. You know, babies will wake up crying when they want to eat [but] I think she did enough crying early on because her tummy bothered her, but she got it all out of her system now – she hardly ever cries anymore.
Jim Bob, what will we see as new episodes of ’19 Kids’ get underway?
These shows are going to start off with us still in Little Rock and that was in June, just before Josie moved back home to Springdale. [In addition,] Jana and John, the twins, are all of a sudden 20, and they went over to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia on a mission trip [preparations for which are seen in Tuesday’s first episode]. There’s so much going on – they’re trying to pack more into the shows. And so everybody’s staying busy between different classes they’re taking and all the music lessons – all the children play the piano and violin and we just feel like some of the most blessed people in the world.
The big question everybody wants to know, Michelle: Given the complications of Josie’s birth and the sheer number of children you’ve had, will you have more?
Well, I think the answer to that question isn’t really yes or no. God changed our heart years ago about how we view children through a very tragic miscarriage, and through that we cried out to God and just said, ‘Father, please give us a lot of children like you have children.’ We are so grateful for every one of these kids God’s given us and can’t imagine life without one of them. So my perspective is [that] I know that I’m 43, and that my time clock is ticking, so I may not be able to have any more, but I would like [to have more] if the Lord sees fit. We will wait and see.
Josie Can Come Home!
Jim Bob, are you surprised at how many people now avidly follow your life on your TV show?
Before we did the TV thing, I was a state representative for our area for two terms [a total of four years, in the Arkansas legislature] and so it was ’98 when we got involved in politics, so the children have kind of grown up in the public eye. So it’s really not that much different for them. They’re used to cameras and having people taking pictures or whatever, but I think as parents we kind of set the tone of: This is not really about us; it’s really about encouraging other families. Over the years, so many families have encouraged US and Michelle’s always had such a spirit of learning from other moms, and she feels like they are successful and doing a good job of raising their kids, so this is a way to kind of share some of the things that WE’VE learned.
You guys seem pretty open when it comes to sharing your life and household with TV camera crews. Is there anything you wouldn’t let the cameras see, such as some of the drama surrounding Josie’s premature birth?
Jim Bob: We really believe that our family is just a close-knit family, that God has brought us together for a purpose and our whole family just loves going places and doing things. We feel like it is something if we can show the world how, when a family is together loving God and loving each other, how powerful that energy can be.
Michelle: I think at the same time there were those times when we have struggled. And I think the reality of all that is we go through tough times just like anybody else, and so being able to see Josie in the hospital is real life, and the struggles with training little ones and the squealing and the fighting that goes on – I think that’s just real life. People can identify with that.
Michelle, with 19 children, we who watch your show would expect to see you exhausted and irritable, at least occasionally. But you never seem to get that way. Do you ever get tired and cranky?
Well, I honestly know it’s God’s grace because I think I do get tired and I do deal with the same exhaustion that most moms deal with. I think the whole perspective that God brings my heart back to is that it’s not about me. I’m not the center of the universe. It’s really about loving God and loving others and when we do those two things, I think you’re going to be a success in life no matter what you do.
Jim Bob, Michelle says she learned the benefits of using a soft rather than harsh voice to discipline and control your kids. What about you?
I’d never been around children ’til we started having them and I tried raising my voice and I tried to discipline them and just realized pretty quick that what that really does is it breaks our relationship with them. No one wants to be around somebody who’s yelling at them.
Do you and your family have much exposure to the rest of television, including the rest of unscripted TV? Are you familiar with shows such as ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’? If so, do you see your wholesome show as a kind of antidote to those shows?
Michelle: We don’t watch TV.
Jim Bob: Back when we first got married, a doctor friend of ours who did marriage counseling encouraged us not to have a TV the first year of marriage and so we decided to do that. And after the first year [they were married in 1984], we went and got the cable hooked up and a TV set in our living room and we couldn’t believe how bad TV had gotten in a year!
Michelle: And then our communications just dropped off and it was just like, man, we can’t do this!
Jim Bob: It’s something that has really helped us – our family does not watch TV unless it’s like a presidential speech or something like that –
Michelle: — or the [University of Arkansas] Razorbacks are playing!