19 Kids and Counting: Family Travel Lessons from the Duggars

On the hour-long season finale of 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggars set off for New York City to do some ministry and service work as well as start the book tour for Michelle and Jim Bob's second book, A Love that Multiplies.

It's a love that might actually continue to multiply, according to Michelle, who confesses at the end of the show that she'd be “so happy” to have another baby. Watching her excitement, it's hard not to wonder if she already has another bun in the oven.

The first stop in New York was a park in Queens, where the whole gang performed a song. Perhaps the only thing more amazing than watching even the youngest children sing (and behave!) on stage in coordinating purple and green outfits, was watching them the next day, taking the subway from Queens to Manhattan.

Jim Bob naturally gave several impassioned speeches about the possibility of being left behind when the train doors are only open for ten seconds as well as about the importance of staying away from the platform edge. He also delivered clear instructions about what to do if a child got separated from the group. (Find a policeman.) Then employing the buddy system (a regular Duggar tactic), each of the older children was paired with one of the younger ones, and was responsible for their care for the duration of the ride. 

I have to confess I was awestruck as I watched the Duggars' "hands-off" parenting in play, even on the New York City subway. I don't mean to imply that they're not involved in their children's lives, because I think that they're wonderful parents who are deeply invested in their children, spiritually and emotionally. But they also let their kids roam free around their property, and are somehow able to have confidence in them even on a New York City subway train. In this challenging situation, the Duggars simply inform their children what is expected of them, and carry on with their business.

Meanwhile, I'm taking two (yes, just two) children to Disney World in the fall and am seriously contemplating ordering personalized temporary tattoos with my cell phone information on them in case we are even momentarily separated from each other. Watching these kids, I get the sense that their respect for their parents is what keeps them safe in situations like these. They're willing to listen and obey, and they seem to understand that what they're being told and taught is really because their parents have their best interests in mind.

I myself am guilty of spouting off all kinds of "lessons" to my children at all hours of the day -- "don't do this, you shouldn't do that, please try this instead." I never see the Duggar parents following their children around, admonishing them to stay out of the dirt or to tie their shoes or finish what's on their plates if they want dessert. I wonder if I limited myself to just the things that were absolutely necessary, would my parenting be more effective, like Michelle and Jim Bob's is?

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