News emerged recently that Joy-Anna Duggar, age 19, is engaged to Austin Forsyth, 22. Their courtship, which began last November, was shown on the Duggar family’s reality TV show, “Counting On,” on the season finale about a week ago.
When the Duggars first came onto the scene, over a decade ago now, I was a fan. I think I first learned about them when I read a magazine article on the family. Dad Jim Bob was running for office in their native Arkansas. I even emailed the magazine, commending them on featuring such a wholesome family. They all dressed alike! They had Christian values! All those cute kids!
19 Kids and Counting
The Duggars soon nabbed their own reality show, “19 Kids and Counting.” Of course, it wasn’t 19 kids at first. They started with maybe 14, then one by one, the family grew. I liked the show. I liked seeing how such a large family got by with a frugal lifestyle.
As the years went by, I noticed the family changing in subtle ways. They benefited greatly from the TV show, which provided much of a huge new house they built and moved in to. Companies provided many things to the family, from a grand piano to trips all over the world. They ditched the Laura Ingalls Wilder clothes and began dressing more fashionably. And the babies kept coming. Baby #19, Josie, famously was born about halfway through her gestation and had many medical issues. And baby #20, Jubilee, was stillborn.
Then, a new “season of life” began: the weddings of the kids. Oldest son Josh was first — and now in the past couple of years he has admitted to engaging in scandalous activities. Daughters Jill, Jessa, and Jinger were next — all, conveniently (?) timed to be one per season of the TV show. It began to appear that the family, specifically I’m guessing dad Jim Bob, was orchestrating family events in order to keep the show (and the income) going.
After Josh’s disgrace, “19 Kids” was taken off the air. But the show returned in a new version, ostensibly featuring the older kids. It’s called “Counting On.”
Married at 19: Good Idea?
As the older girls married, one by one, my thoughts on the family veered from happiness to skepticism, to now, sadness with Joy-Anna. She will not turn 20 until October, and if she follows the family’s typical time frame, she’ll be married by then. That’s just so … young. Is it a good idea?
I don’t know. On one hand, the Duggars raise their kids in an extremely sheltered way. They are home-schooled and, at least fairly recently, home-churched. Either they aren’t allowed to go to college, or else none of the 19 kids have ever expressed a desire to go (son Joseph did spend one semester at a Christian college). If this is one’s life, maybe teenage marriage isn’t so bad?
I just keep thinking of all life has to offer, though. If Joy-Anna marries at 19, she’ll most likely be pregnant within a few months. Then, having babies and working at her fiance’s family camp will pretty much be her life for the rest of her life. As I watch Austin explain what he likes about her (she’s diligent; she delegates well), I just feel sad. When I see her respond to him with the same adoring gaze her sisters and mom use for their men, I just feel … disillusioned. I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems life could offer these kids so much more. If you don’t know of anything you’re missing, are you really missing it? Even if they could, would these kids choose anything different? And is it wrong for parents to keep their kids so sheltered that they don’t even know what else is out there?
No answers here. These are just thoughts that occupy my mind these days when I think about the Duggars. Have you watched the show? What do you think?
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