Duggar Girls Talk Dating, Big Families, and Reality TV
I stumbled onto the Duggars accidentally—curious about the little children I saw wandering around a construction site during one of their earliest TLC specials, when the family was building their 7,000-square-foot Arkansas home. I have been fascinated by this family ever since.
I'm not the only one; their show, 19 Kids and Counting (well, it started at 17 kids, then 18, and could very well hit 20), is now in its eighth season. The four eldest daughters—Jana, 24; Jill, 22, Jessa, 21, and Jinger, 20— just published a book about their lives: Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships (Howard Books, 2014).
As Jill announced her engagement to Derick Dillard (the wedding is set for June) and Jessa entered into a courtship with Ben Seewald, the family is gearing up for a season of celebration—and even more public visibility.
Seasoned veterans of reality TV, the Duggars have grown quite comfortable in the public eye. While other shows thrive on controversy and increasingly ridiculous and staged drama, their half-hour program has never done more than portray the simple challenges of everyday life for a 21-person household, and it's never needed to.
At the heart of everything this super-sized family does is their Christian faith, which inspires everything from their commitment to debt-free living to their value of large families to the courtship model undertaken by each of their eldest children as they move toward marriage.
And it's these life choices that make even the most mundane details of their lives so fascinating. How do you raise a child when you already have 18 others? How do you date when you're not allowed to go out in public without a chaperone or text without parental screening? And how do you respond when the man who leads the organization in which your family is very involved resigns amid sex abuse allegations?
In their new book, the girls share the life lessons and biblical principles that have shaped them in their teenage years. They spoke with me about life as a Duggar, what they hope girls can learn from their experiences, and how they view the next phases of their lives.
How long have you been working on this book? What did that process look like?
Jill: It's been about a two-year process. We figured that most people picking it up, because it's from us four sisters, would be young ladies. So we wanted to write it to answer a lot of questions and tell more about our family, and tell stories people have not seen on the show before. It's been a lot of sitting down and talking about stories, talking about principles and our family life.
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