Jon Gosselin has eight reasons to feel blessed, not just on Father’s Day, but every day.
“Every day I thank God I have healthy kids,” said the father of twins and sextuplets whose family is the star of the TLC series “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” The show is the most-watched on TLC, and kicks off its fourth season with a one-hour special next Monday, June 16.
To celebrate another season, the Gosselins — parents Jon and Kate, 7-year-old twins Cara and Madelyn, and 4-year-old sextuplets Alexis, Aaden, Collin, Leah, Hannah and Joel — visited the TODAY Show Thursday.
The June 16 special, they said, will go back to how they met at a picnic. For Kate, it was love at first sight. “Jon was walking across the grass and I saw him and was instantly intrigued!” she writes on their Web site, sixgosselins.com. “Our eyes met and continued to meet from across the way all afternoon. Finally, I arranged for someone to introduce us … and the rest is history!”
Jon is just 31 years old and Kate is 33. They married when he was 22, and a year later, he was the father of twins. At 27, the sextuplets arrived and he became the father of eight. It took a bit of adjustment, he said.
Jon Gosselin was initially resistant to the idea of having a third child to go with the twins his wife gave birth to seven years ago. Two, he thought, were enough. But Kate wanted one more. She had needed to undergo fertility treatments to have her twins, and underwent the treatments again to conceive that third child, only to learn that she was carrying seven embryos.
Her obstetrician advised her to consider a procedure to reduce the number of embryos. But the Gosselins, who are devout Christians, refused to abort any of them. One failed to grow. The other six arrived in the world on May 10, 2004. They were, at the time, just the tenth set of sextuplets to survive birth in the U.S. Four more sets have been born since.
“It was very difficult for me,” Jon Gosselin told TODAY. But his concerns were about his wife, not himself. “Throughout the pregnancy, I was worried about Kate,” he said. As it turned out, she was the one who encouraged him through the pregnancy and not the other way around.
“She’s a strong woman,” he said. “She’s a nurse and she’s very medically oriented. She would comfort me. I would just pray for my wife, that she would be healthy and the babies would be healthy. God took care of the rest.”
“We look back now on how young we were and how naïve we were. It’s all a whirlwind,” he said.
It became more of a whirlwind when he and Kate agreed to do a documentary for TLC when the sextuplets were 17 months old. That involved film crews coming into the home, adding to the chaos. The one show led to another and now to a series that involves having a film crew around three to four days a week. “They’ve become like family to us,” he said of the cameramen, producers and technicians.
There’s also a book in the works, “Multiple Ble8sings: Surviving and Thriving with Twins and Sextuplets,” due to be published later this year.
“We’re having a good time, a blast,” Jon told TODAY.
The Gosselins have had no help from grandparents on either side of the family, but they do employ a personal assistant/nanny to help with the many demands on their time, including publicity appearances to promote the show and the book as well as his job as a Web developer, which he is able to do from home. “I get to spend a lot of time with my family,” he said.
Jon Gosselin said that being the subject of a documentary has helped Kate and him to be better parents and better spouses because it allows them to see themselves through the camera’s eye instead of their own.
“Every time I watch a rough cut before it goes to final cut, it’s like marriage counseling,” Jon says. He’ll look at how he reacted to something, turn to his wife, and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, honey. I should have taken a different approach with that.” “It’s very beneficial in that manner,” he says.
It also has its disadvantages. The biggest is meeting people who watch the show and want to tell the Gosselins how they should have handled some situation.
“Some people think they can do better, so they offer opinions and suggestions,” Jon said. “We’ve learned to block that out. We’ve developed a thick skin.”
The other challenge is maintaining their privacy. The family lives in a regular subdivision in Pennsylvania. They purposely do not give out the name of their hometown to cut down on curiosity seekers, but trying to maintain normalcy can be difficult.
The biggest challenge with the children, he said, “is the diversity between the two age groups, 7 and 4.” What works for the twin girls doesn’t work for the sextuplets, and vice versa. And within the sextuplets, there are three rambunctious boys and three girls. “You can’t discipline them exactly the same because it just won’t work,” he said.
It’s not all roses, and someday the Gosselins will have to deal with college. But it’s been more fun than Jon ever imagined.
“Ninety-five percent of the time,” he said, “is awesome.”