The fractured family starts a new adventure as the sextuplets start school
HUGGING IT OUT Kate and Hannah enjoy a moment of pure joy in the cacophony
Credit: TLC

‘Jon & Kate Plus Eight’ recap: The learning curve

The time had come for the sextuplets to head off to kindergarten. It’s a rite of passage for families across the nations, and I say families because as much as Kate’s making this about herself might irk some, it is a momentous day for parents as well as the kids.

We were thrust into the middle of the hustle and bustle of the kids prepping for the start of their junior kindergarten lives. That included taking six 5-year-olds to a shoe store — something that is akin to a nightmare. For all her control-freak bluster (”Now is time for order because I can’t stand chaos”) I think that Kate handled this really well. She let them choose, people! This could all have been done from the comfort of her home computer. But she decided to ”branch out.” Velcro instead of laces — check! A few glow-in-the-dark sneakers — check!

Don’t you laugh at her joy at finding matching lunch boxes for the kids’ book bags (”That thrilled me to pieces!”). At the start of the school year, both parents and kids love the feel of newness and order, and that includes matching bags and lunchboxes. (Yes, I get a big slight thrill when I snap my kid’s lunch box on to her bag. We take it wherever we can get it, folks.)

It is a little hard to be charitable about Kate’s change in attitude about the fans of the show. When they started, she intensely resented the attention that hit them (”Yes, we put our world out there but I didn’t get that connection”). Early on the scrutiny had her painted as the bad guy — the controlling neat freak who was making poor Jon’s life miserable with her criticism and coldness. But now that tide has turned and she finds herself, if only in contrast to Jon’s behavior, the favored one. ”Everywhere I go…I have seen major, major support. You’re doing the right thing, don’t give up…. People really see my heart and my goal.” I’m not saying it isn’t deserved but I am saying that it’s clear as day why she’s had this change of heart.

Speaking of Papa Jon, he of the Ed Hardy shirts was back (from Vegas?) in time to help send off his brood on that first day. (How stilted was Kate’s voice-over noting his surprise arrival?) It was a wonderful thing for the kids to have both parents there on that important day, and hopefully both parents’ words and the editing told the real story of a drama- and tension-free sendoff.

True, Jon’s talk about them technically still being family did come way back in August before the really public nastiness began, but I want to believe that in their hearts Jon and Kate do know that taking the stance that the kids come first is really what’s best for their children.

NEXT PAGE: The kids’ best moments

And even with all that, Kate gave voice to feelings that any divorced or single parent could understand: ”[As the school bus drove off] it was very strange and sad not to have somebody to say ‘Wow, we did it.’ In the olden days we probably would have slapped five and said we survived…but I said it out loud to myself.”

Blessedly there was no footage of the kids in school or even getting on the bus (except for paparazzi film. I love how TLC respected the decision not to film it but went ahead and showed the paparazzi clip. Klassy.) So the mother of eight was suddenly in an empty house talking to the cameras and chronicling her newfound alone time, most of which was spent cleaning and doing paperwork. (Most mothers can relate.) Her complaint that now there’s not enough time to spend with the kids (because of school and Jon’s alone time with them) probably caused some raised eyebrows from those who’ve claimed she hadn’t really spent that much time with them, particularly when she was promoting her book and on the road all the time. But there she was, wishing she were less fragmented and able to spend more quality time with her kids.

There was the ”drama” of the older girls’ messy room (six bags of garbage!). I can’t even pretend that I don’t understand how kids’ rooms can get that out of control. It happens, folks. And it happens with far less kids to keep track of. But we could have done without the scary-movie treatment.

Yes, this episode did seem to be mostly about Kate, so let’s look at some standout moments from the kids:

Their post-first day ”I love school!” chant. Too cute!

Lunch box assembly line fun. No, that excitement won’t last forever but gotta love that enthusiasm. The giggles! The clapping!

The big sisters’ excitement and consternation. ”The little things that used to wear diapers are now the big things that are in junior K.,” said Mady. Uh, those things would be your siblings, Mady. Later, Cara was mortified that the kids shouted hello to her while she was in class.

The morning of’s breakfast excitement: ”We’re going to make new friends!”

Eating ”bessert” at lunch! Awwww!

”Thank you” in Spanish: Gaflack! Gacias! Grasas!

So, how are you feeling about the ”limited number of episodes left,” TV Watchers? Able to tune out the real-world doings? Happy to visit the land of joy that the kids seem to live on?

More Jon & Kate from EW:
Ken Tucker’s take on ”School Days”

Jon and Kate Plus 8
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