Karen and Deon Derrico are super-parents. During the first season of their TLC (DStv channel 135) reality series Doubling Down With The Derricos, Karen gave birth to triplets Dawsyn, De’Aren and Dyver (who’re now 1 and a half years old). They joined the 11 other Derrico kids – 15-year-old Darian, 10-year-old Derrick, 9-year-old twins Dallas and Denver, 7-year-old quintuplets Deniko, Dariz, Deonee, Daiten and Daician, and 4-year-old twins Diez and Dior (originally triplets but the third baby, Carter, died shortly after birth). If you ran out of fingers part way through that, that’s 14 kids in total.

Estate agentDeon Derrico is the family breadwinner and cook. And Karen has a full-time, never-ending job at home raising all the children, home-schooling and running the household with breath-taking efficiency. Everything is organised and labelled, down to the children’s toothbrushes.

We spoke to Karen and Deon about some fun moments in the new season of their show, self-care, black history, organising 14 birthdays a year, parenting during COVID, a health crisis...and what their fantasy house might look like.

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Welcome to the Derrico household!

How do you go about organising birthday parties for 14 children?

Karen: This is one of the easier things because that’s ready right up my alley of decorating and stuff. So the children’s birthdays, we have one in May and then from July down to December, we are busy and booked with birthdays, because although they’re all multiples, they’re still individuals. So I just have a lot of planning to do. I’m definitely busy with birthday parties, and every year it gets bigger and bigger because the demands grow.

How have the kids reacted to COVID and social distancing?

Deon: Well, they’re home-schooled. It does help a lot that we are such a large family. The things that maybe a parent or parents of a single child or even 2 children have faced, we haven’t really faced, which has been a blessing. There’s so many of them, they’ve been able to enjoy each other that way. I don’t think it has affected them the way it probably has many of our children in the world. We haven’t, of course, been able to go out as much as we ordinarily would do, going out and interacting, letting them play outside and things of that nature. We haven’t been able to do that as much.

One of the things we’re really looking forward to this season is seeing the kids dress up for Black History Month. Can you tell us a little bit about how you discussed that behind the scenes?

Karen: With everything going on with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, one of the things that as a parent you want to do is talk to your children about their culture, their ancestors, their family.

Right now, Black History Month in our culture is at a major high and my children see that. I don’t want it to be ignored with them looking at that. So I wanted to make Black History Month more of a current events thing this year. I wanted the children to be able to ask questions and express how they feel and, more importantly, have a clear understanding of what is going on and how it will affect them. And how what the past African American greats, like Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, did has made a great change so far.

So with that, when we sat down and talked about it, I asked Deon first, and then I educated them on who we’re going to go with and then I picked the person for each of the children. It was so great, because now when they’re looking at former President Barack Obama, all of them are excited. They’re like, “Hey, I know who that is!” They all thought it was fun, they learned so much about it. I’m so glad that I was able to incorporate the new things that are going on and some of the past events, and for them to learn about their culture.

That’s one thing that my mother emphasised with us, knowing where you came from, so you can understand where you’re going.”

What was it like realising that Diez might need surgery?

Deon: So the thing with Diez's head is we noticed that there’s something a little off with the shape of his head. It appears to be a little oblong. We’re hoping that we won’t need surgery. We just went through a surgery last year with Dawsyn. So we’re hoping for something minor, such as just wearing a helmet for weeks or months and it’ll correct the issue.

However, we know nothing about this. We’ve never travelled down this path before and so we are just a little afraid of what could possibly become of him and him possibly having to undergo a surgery. It’s a little heart-breaking again, because we just came off a major surgery with Dawsyn last year.

As you can imagine, no parent wants to have any kind of surgery on their children, even something as minor as having their tonsils removed. But when you think of a heart surgery, which is what Dawsyn had, and the possibility of a head surgery, which is what we’re praying that Diaz doesn’t need, it is very, very scary and tormenting to us.

Karen, going with that point because it’s something you’ve posted about online, it becomes so important to practice self-care as a parent, too. How do you do that?

Karen: Self-care is not an easy task for me, because I’m always so busy with the children and running behind them constantly and doing things for them. During this season I decided to start with massages. If I can just schedule one massage and stick to it, every 2 weeks, that’s the beginning of it.

Going to bed early, it’s a small thing. It’s hard for me to lie in the bed and just go to bed because my mind is always running. So one of the things that I am doing is I journal a lot. I journal before I go to bed and that has really been so relaxing for me.

It’s also therapeutic for me to look back a week or so later, and read what I wrote and know that whatever it was that I was stressing about or nervous about, either I’ve already gone through it and past it on the other side, or I can write the events in it. So journaling, going to bed earlier, going to get a massage, and doing all of this.

And with all of the stresses when it comes to Dawsyn’s surgery and things like that, I just really went into prayer mode as well, too. I just asked God to really keep me calm because I had to be strong for him and my other children. I tried to take an extra walk, journal, read, say my prayers, go to bed earlier, have a close friend I can talk to, all of those things helped me and it really helped me during all of the ups and downs of what we had to deal with this season, especially when it comes to the health of Diez.

Deon, same question for you, particularly because it’s so important for dads to model good mental health practices for their kids...

Deon: It’s funny you would ask that. I wouldn’t say I’m doing any more than I’ve always done. For me, just caring for our babies gives me, honest to God, all the joy in the world. It does something to my soul.

Literally, taking care of our children and loving our children is like healing for my soul. That’s the best way I can describe it. I enjoy playing with them, I enjoy interacting with them, I enjoy discovering new things with them, and introducing them to new things.

I think I’m living vicariously through them because I wanted so many siblings myself. It’s pleasing my soul or that part of my soul that wished I had that as a child. They’ve become my life, if you will. And every now and then, of course, I travel from one home to another from our rental properties. And that gives me that little break that everyone needs.

While I’m gone, they’re steadily calling me on the cellphone but I do still get that little breakaway, 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there and it does allow me that time to recharge.

What do you wish you could have told the you from 20 years back?

Deon: First, I wish I could tell myself that I was going to have 14 children, so I could have even more prepared than we are. I think we’re pretty prepared.

Karen: Stock up on some sleep.

Deon: Do a lot of more vacationing.

Karen: Yeah.

Deon: We enjoy what we do, but I think I would have loved to have been even more prepared. As parents, we feel that we are not as prepared, once we finally have a child, I think every parent fears that. I would definitely tell myself to just sit back and chill, and know that I do have it together. And I just would have made a lot of more preparations for having such a large family. We didn’t have Darian until I was 35 years of age. So I look at all the time that I wasted money and everything, and I wish I had done a better job managing it. Having a large amount of children, financial stability is always at the forefront of that. We’ve never had any problems with it, thank God, but there’s still other things I wish I would have accomplished with it, so that would be mine.

Karen: We joke and say get more sleep, become more organised and ready for it as we think we can become with it. But I think I would just tell myself that it’s going to be fine. The times that I went through the miscarriages, looking now at the blessings that we have, I wish I would have told myself to just relax and calm down. But at that moment, you just don’t know. You don’t know what the outcome is ever going to be, so you stressed out. What I’m telling myself right now, looking forward, is enjoy these moments. They are growing so fast. Enjoy these moments and continue your close bond with all of your children.

Deon: I would also like to tell myself, when my wife and I suffered our first couple of miscarriages, that we would get past that, and we would be here. So my message to all parents, or potential parents that are trying to have children, is to really not give up because we were right there. We had 2 miscarriages prior to having Darian, so we didn’t think that. The first one (miscarriage), of course, threw us off and then we had the second one about a year later. We started to believe that we would never be able to have children. We really understand the pain that many people face who may be still trying, they may have even had more miscarriages than we’ve had.

If you could build your fantasy house together as a family, what are some of the rooms that you would include now?

Deon: You don’t have enough time for us to give you those details! We would have 14 bedrooms. We will have a 2500 square foot laundry room alone. I would like to have a shower outside the house for coming into the house, because I have OCD and I can’t stand those types of dirt inside the house. I want a RV garage, state of the art classroom. We could go...

Karen: Mother-in-law suites, we need 2 or 3 of them.

Deon: We also need a suite just for people to visit.

Karen: About 10 acres of land.

Deon: About 20 acres of land, we could go on and on...

Finally, will we be meeting anyone new this season?

Deon: You won’t be meeting anyone new, but you will be meeting something new. There is something new that you will be able to see this season. You have to stay tuned and it’s going to be exciting. Let me think of a good hint. A good hint would be, it consumes food. It consumes food.

All together now, Derrico puppy, Derrico puppy! Please can we have a puppy?

Watch Doubling Down With The Derricos S2, Wednesdays on TLC (DStv channel 135) at 21:00

NB! TLC (DStv channel 135) is available on DStv Premium, Compact Plus, Compact, Family and Access. To get DStv or to upgrade your package, click here

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