I loved the Channel 4 show of this three part series that started last week and was eagerly looking forward to watching this week’s episode from last night. This week we saw the Lewis family from Bournemouth with their 12 daughters . Carly 28, Tracy, Samantha, Lyndsay, Danielle, Chantelle, Charlotte, Georgia, Candice, Shannon, Shaznay and Porsha, 8. They have one son, Charles who we see very little of and seems to me to have the best idea out of everyone in the house and that is to stay out of the way of chaos of hair straighteners, prom dresses and make up.
From the outside this looks like the perfect family, they have a nice house, it is clean and tidy and all the girls look happy and healthy. My instant reaction was that this was just a large family who’s mum had a slight obsession for beauty pageants but who obviously loves her kids very much.
15 Kids and Counting – Tracy and Pete Lewis
However, as the episode goes on I found the “supermum” of 13 very difficult to watch and became disturbed by the way she on numerous occasions substituted the word daughters/babies with the word “winners” and was keen to stress how not one daughter was her favourite but yet from the view point of the daughters it is clear that they are aware that their are favourites in the house. One of the older daughters expresses how the girls should be allowed to grow up and be children and decide what they want to be – it appears though that their mum Tracy has already decided that even as young as Shaznay and Porsha (and please if you are going to call your child Porsha spell it properly PORTIA!) their role and aim in life is to wear make up, have their hair straightened, pose for photographs and aspire to “be a supermodel”.
There is visible distress from the youngest child when she doesn’t get mum’s attention and it seems that the sibling rivalry in competitions has extended itself into real life competition between the girls as to who can get mum’s attention the most.
The mother takes them clothes shopping because Chantelle is entering the prestigious Face of London competition and buys her a fairly revolting short pink and purple outfit to make her look “sexy” and is proud that several daughters have won the same trophy. She talks about them like dolls who are to be displayed like the trophies we see her religiously clinging on to for dear life as if the Channel 4 camera crew might snatch them away from her. I found it disturbing that the girls are plastered in make up and each have their hair straighteners – how young can these actually be safely used? Even at 28 years old Carly at the end looked scary in her shocking pink and electric blue glitter eye make up.
Tracy’s husband summed it up that he feels his wife is living her childhood dreams and aspirations through her kids, and I believe he got this spot on. Looking at Carly the oldest in the house I fear that she too will end up like her mum and breed a clan full of beauty queen mini-me’s and it was sad to see that none of these girls had an ounce of personality or originality about them.
15 Kids and Counting – Fabian Bland and Donna Harrison
In comparison we see the Blands. Who are one of the increasing number of “blended” families in the UK having a mix of their own children as well as children from previous relationships and also Fabian and Donna taking on her sister’s 3 children.
The family live in a housing association 3 bed house in Bradford, you see ponies being led on ropes up and down the path outside their house and two Alsatians living in a messy back yard; the kids appear to cause chaos and havoc at home and fighting, hitting, shouting and winding each other up seems to be a daily occurrence in the house. For me it was a stereotypical portrayal of a family living in a council house in a deprived area of the UK. Looking at the kids you can see the newest arrival Chloe is struggling with the transition from living with her mum to living in this busy house and the lack of privacy for anyone especially mum and dad must be horrendous – thankfully there is some saving grace in that the housing association move them into an 8 bed at the end.
There appears to be little parental discipline and no role model for the children to aspire to. Dad, Fabian has recently lost his job of 25 years and you feel for a family that clearly want to create a loving environment for siblings to bond but are strapped financially and realistically by their living arrangements. However, dad is determined for the 10 children to have a holiday and he sorts out a trip to Scarborough in tents. They show how it’s not easy but that they try their best – the kids fight as usual and you can see disapproving looks from other campers when the Bland clan arrive.
However, by day they are working as a family unit. Bickering has stopped – Fabian refuses to see the children go without and shells out another £20 in pocket money for the kids. The toll on Donna is hard to see as she becomes emotional during the film saying all she wanted as a loving family home where the kids all got on – that’s pretty much what every parent would want for their kids I think. As the kids get used to the outdoor space and burn off their energy in ways that kids to they begin to work hard to make sure they don’t fight as much and try get along and this cheap holiday really seems to do a good job – especially helping Fabian’s oldest daughter 14 year old Chloe to fit in.
Donna shows how her large family is just the same as a smaller one – planning things and just wanting it to be perfect and then children acting like – well children. There’s no make up here, no hair straighteners, no girl clothes – just a family trying to get everyone to get along as one. Fabian comments on more than one occasion that he just wants his kids to have all the opportunities of a good education and a good upbringing that he didn’t have. Seems logical and normal to me.
Ironically, it’s Tracy Lewis who was in the paper as “supermum” but by the end of the documentary it was my view that Donna in my view was the real supermum here. She has taken in children that are not her own, is managing to keep a house in order, run a military operation for meal times, and provide a stable home for her kids. It is always worth remembering though that shows like this are edited to look a certain way for viewing and I am sure that there is another side to Tracy Lewis but one we weren’t privy to see.
It got me thinking about what makes a good family?
It isn’t about the amount of money you have, how much your kids have, whether you have the best of everything – surely it’s about being able to give them the love, attention and guidance they need to become rounded adults in life later on?
If you watched it what did you think?