Jon and Kate (Too Late)

Letting Go #10:

Okay, I admit it. I used to watch a certain “reality” show on TLC because I’m a closet family voyeur. I’m fascinated by the logistics of running a household with a lot of kids. I wanted to understand how you could raise eight kids in a reasonably healthy, secure manner without forgetting one of them at the mall, or favoring the youngest or oldest because you were the youngest or oldest. This was all illusion on my part, but I kidded myself and watched the show faithfully, calling it social research. I grew up with only one brother and not much exposure to other juvenile relatives. And having and wanting only one child makes you a bit of an oddity in the parenting world. Consequences can be dire: you either find yourself with a houseful of other people’s children because they figure you have too much time on your hands, or your lone offspring is subjected to the pity of being that poor, isolated child who doesn’t know how to play and can only relate to adults. (I can’t help but add that I know plenty of adults who act like children.)

Ahem. Which brings me back to Jon and Kate. Don’t get me wrong—I have no issues with the size of their family or their fertility choices. I have an issue with that damned camera. I know that it takes a huge amount of coin for diapers and formula, and play clothes and birthday gifts, and high school activity fees and college tuition. But the minute that first one-hour special turned into a season, and that season turned into a mega-corporation complete with book signings and paparazzi, the Gosselins’ future was sealed. I personally don’t have a great deal of video of my kid, because as soon as the camera was rolling, she turned into this little Keystone Cop/ Buster Keaton character who wanted to throw herself on the furniture and catapult herself over various ledges. It just wasn’t HER anymore. What truly matters are the intimate moments when there isn’t a lens hovering, or background lights sizzling, or production people prompting. I bet I’ll still remember those moments even if they come in the form of déjà vu.

I seem to recall Kate explaining the purpose of the show mainly as a way of recording her kids as they grew, a keepsake, if you will, of their formative years. What they have recorded and imprinted for all time is the slow unraveling of a family. By the end of the last season, I couldn’t take the misery in Jon’s face, the shrillness in Kate’s voice and the awkwardness of the couple on the sofa during their interviews. I decided to turn off the show and refuse to participate in the exploitation, intentionally or otherwise, of the American family. And I’m taking a closer look at my secret little vice of watching “reality” TV. Is it keeping me from living my real life? Life seen through the eyes of a lens is closely controlled by the one who points it (and manipulates the light setting)—Is anything truly REAL or is it (to quote the Moody Blues) an illusion?

Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight,
Red is gray and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?