Celebrities or non-celebrities, reality TV stars can be polarizing figures. I have been following the Gosselin family for years, many years, since their original TV specials when the septuplets were infants. Big Girl and I always enjoyed watching the antics of the children, and marveled at the idea of what it would be like to have such a big family.
After all, at the time, Big Girl was an only child. the idea of multiple siblings fascinated and intrigued her. She laughed at those babies and loved their adorable faces. She related to the older twins. When the show was on TLC, she would ask "Was a new one on last night?" And usually, on hubby's golf night, we would plan a snack and watch the show.
Was I a big Kate Gosselin fan? Well, yes and no. I loved the show. I loved the kids. Did I sometimes think Kate was a little... well... harsh? Or crabby? Of course. But reality TV is not really reality TV, and we all know that. We know it's not totally scripted, a little tweaked, but we also know that the cameras only follow the "stars" on certain days, and the editing monkeys can have a field day with just one off-kilter moment.
In many ways, I knew that I shared many traits of Kate. I like order. I like "themes" and planning and special family moments and creating memories and outings and capturing it all on film. I get crazy sometimes over dirt and messes. I'm frugal and I try to use coupons and shop wisely and get cranky when it doesn't work out. And I've said things to my husband and daughter that I knew I maybe shouldn't have said, or reacted poorly in situations with them.
But I'm not on TV.
Kate Gosselin, that polarizing figure, attracts passionate arguments about why one loves or loathes her. It's about as crazy as a stay-at-home mom vs. working mom argument. Message boards are devoted to discussing Kate and her family. Psycho haters stalk her on Twitter. Paparazzi love catching her in an awkward moment. Rumors are spread about her family and anyone within 10 feet of her.
My opinion of Kate has changed in many ways over the years, starting with her public divorce. Her divorce was truly painful to watch, in my opinion. I felt truly sorry for her as we watched her marriage fall apart on TV.
And then, not long after her divorce, I had twins. And that really changed it all. Twins are HARD. Really hard, in my opinion, particulary when you already have an older child and your twins are active toddlers. Kate G. has come to my mind on many, many days in the two years -- I can't imagine having more than these two small beings in my house. Let alone twins first, and then sextuplets, and then single motherhood.
I get why she has help -- my mom helps me a lot and I couldn't do it without help. I get why the family took up the opportunity to be on TV with its paycheck. Having kids is expensive. I get why she sometimes griped over gum and markers and crumbs. I'm real enough to say I've had those moments too.
Again -- I'm not on TV.
There's a certain grace one must learn when one is thrust into the spotlight. Sometimes one handles it well, but most people have a very big learning curve, and the latter, I believe, is normal. I am not a celebrity, but where I live a few strangers know me for my writing in local publications and my support of certain local politicians and important local issues. I've had some awkward moments, and I understand, in a small way, what judgement is. It's not easy to handle those awkward moments, or the judgement that follows, trust me.
So that is why my opinion of Kate has changed. I see her a little bit differently today. She can't take back any of the past -- none of us can. She survived a painful and public divorce. She's got to provide for her children, but now she's a celebrity. And so are her children. She needs to keep them safe, and feed and house them. I personally don't believe it's possible for her to suddenly take a regular job and put them in public school and move to a three-bedroom cape. Some may not agree with this. But clearly this mom is trying to keep her children's lives "normal" when it's really not normal and trying to keep their routine the same despite their parents breaking up and losing major income and opportunity from a TV show all at the same time. I give her a tremendous amount of credit for trying to "keep on keepin' on." She's a strong lady in that respect.
Last weekend, my daughter and I returned from her Girl Scout camping trip to see that Kate was running in a local road race just 8 miles from my house on the very next day -- an annual, legendary race which some friends and family members were already running. Big Girl immediately said "Can we go??? Please??"
Other than dealing with the mound of camping equipment in the garage and the accompanying laundry, we didn't have anything planned. The hubby actually had to work the next day, so I figured maybe I would attempt a spontaneous outing on my own. We looked at a map, and chose a spot on the course where the runners passed by twice. Snacks and amusements and water packed, we headed to our chosen spot and parked out to cheer everyone on.
The crowd of runners in this race is huge (1,700!), and they all kind of blend together at certain points, but I was able to pick out Kate. God bless that woman for the sheer fact she has the stamina to do this race. It's on the top 10 list of hardest small town races in the country, with a killer hill at the end. She was holding her own in that race -- not just using her celebrity, she was using her muscles and sweat.
|Kate waves to me & my twins-plus-one!|
On her left is NYC marathon champ Rod Dixon, who invited her to the race.
Kate appeared at Dixon's KidsMarathon children's race event
on the previous day with her brood.
Big Girl was thrilled to see someone who she has watched on TV for a while, which made the adventure worth it. And I was inspired to see her run, believe it or not -- as someone who would like to get in shape, it's always good to find a little inspiration somewhere, especially from Kate, who once said that moms "get a pass" on their appearances until all their young children are in school. That one statement took a lot of my "the twins are 2 and I still have baby weight and feel unfashionable" guilt away when I read it last year. Thank you, Kate!
(And even though it was Big Girl's wish to see Kate at the race, it spurred us to go cheer on others we knew running, and it gave us the opportunity to see some really awesome atheletes from all over the world who came to run -- some you will see in the London Olympics later this year! It was very inspiring and truly amazing to see their grace and speed.)
It appears TLC isn't having Kate back for more programs in the near future, but I don't think she'll fade away. From watching Kate's recent Today show interview, I think Kate is shopping around for some reality show opportunity, and I know that I would watch her. I'm most interested in her tips on raising multiples and organization and shopping. Of course, like many viewers, I feel vested in seeing how the kids grow and what they do. I would read a book, if she wrote another one, and I do read her Coupon Cabin blog posts regularly. I would probably watch re-runs of "J&K Plus 8" if they were still on, with a different point of view now, and I've re-read Multiple Blessings just for some comfort in times when I needed it as a "Mom of Multiples."
I've always liked the phrase about walking a mile in someone's shoes. It has never been so true to me as it has after I had twins. Few understand what it's like to raise more than one baby at once. And few likely understand what it's like to be Kate Gosselin. I think we can all learn to try and walk -- or run :) -- a mile in other's shoes, whether it's Kate or some other stranger, before we totally judge what they face in their private lives. Try it.