Karen and Deon Derrico are super-parents. As the first season of their TLC (DStv 135) reality series Doubling Down With The Derricos begins, Karen is expecting triplets (pre-named Dawsyn, De’Aren and Dyver). They’re set to join the 11 other Derrico kids –14-year-old Darian, 9-year-old Derrick, 8-year-old twins Dallas and Denver, 6-year-old quintuplets Deniko, Dariz, Deonee, Daiten and Daician, and 2-year-old twins Diez and Dior (originally triplets but the third, Carter, died shortly after birth). Asked about Carter’s different name, Karen explains, “This was a unique situation and I wanted his name and for him to be unique. When I say the name Carter, you automatically know. I don’t have to repeat the story back to you.”

"We've always talked about between 11 and 12 children. I want as many children as God will bless me with," says Deon. But he also notes that having four sets of multiple births back-to-back is “like being struck by lightning, while being struck by lightning”. The family’s warmth comes across onscreen regardless of the bustling household, though. “There’s always enough love,” insists Karen. And she and Deon are seldom onscreen a moment without holding and cuddling one of their children.

If you’ve tried to raise even 1 child – or watched your friends do it during the pandemic, you might be wondering… ”but how?!” And that’s what the series is going to uncover, in full, riotous family form.

Deon and Karen are hoping to reach out to other couples and households who’re trying to raise lots of kids. "We have a lot that we have dealt with, that we have gone through and we had no one to turn to. There was no book to read. There was no one that resembled us or resembled our situation that we could refer to," Deon notes.

Mom & Dad

Deon Derrico is the family breadwinner – and that’s a lot of bread. He’s also the family cook, which means that he’s the bread maker, too. Declining any government aid, Deon has turned his knack for real estate investment into a real family business. At home, he connects with each of his sons in special bonding time when he plays barber to his brood. And Karen has a full-time, never-ending job at home raising all the children and running the household. Everything is organised and labelled, down to the children’s toothbrushes, and the house is clean as it can be thanks to Karen’s aptitude for management.

Everything is run on a system, and from bathing to dressing to preparing for school, all the children are handled in birth order. "Mornings here at the Derrico house, it's like a ballet," says Karen. "It's chaotic. We have to constantly be on them: 'Have a seat, eat your breakfast, let's get everything together.' It's definitely a job when they get down." Everything is done to the clock, from taking out the rubbish to eating dinner, to brushing their teeth and stepping into one of the family’s vans to get to school (pre-pandemic) or to go to church every Sunday. At night, the whole family gathers together for Karen to read them their bedtime story, and Deon to lead the family in prayer.

As the kids grow up, they’re stepping up to help their mom and dad. “One thing that helps with having multiples is that they help each other navigate chores and duties around the house. And they learn from each other,” says Karen.

But while there’s family unity and happiness, the show doesn’t shy away from the fact that the older siblings are feeling the pressure of not being able to go their own way with their friends without throwing a real spanner in the works at home, and there are definitely days when the oldest daughter, Darian, longs for the day when she was an only child. “'It's fun because you're never lonely and you're never bored, and then it's stressful because sometimes they don't listen to you and they just act like animals,” she admits.

Counting on the Derricos

The practicalities of raising a huge family – something that was commonplace in our great grandparents’ time – are fascinating. Multiplying kids makes everything bigger, more complicated and more expensive. Here are some of the numbers:

  • 3-4 loads of laundry every single dayor around 18 loads per week.
  • 4 hours:how long it takes Karen to do all the girls’ hair.
  • 6 pregnancies for Karen so far.
  • “7 o'clock (at night) is everybody's time to bring me all their folders to be signed, homework and everything is done and completed, all their backpacks and everything is packed and lined up,"says Karen.
  • 8pm is bedtime on school nights for the Derrico children. All of them.
  • 15 boxes of waffles eaten every week.
  • 40 rolls of toilet paper used per week.
  • 40 feeding bottles per day for the babies.
  • 100 nappies used every single day.
  • $3,500 (R59,026) per month on groceries
  • 1 in 2 million: the chance of even having quintuplets

Brace for impact

Part of what makes the show so gripping is how honest Karen and Deon are about their struggles. Karen has suffered 4 miscarriages, and her new set of triplets are looking to come dangerously early. When an earthquake strikes, the event sends Karen into premature labour, and you can see the terror in both her and Deon’s faces at the thought of losing one or all of their longed-for new babies. The show will also be open about Deon’s struggles balancing both the business and taking on more of the household while Karen is on forced bedrest during the pregnancy. It’ll see them taking steps they’ve never taken before, including bringing a nanny into the house to help care for the children – something they’ve always been proud of handling by themselves or with family help from Deon’s nephew, Eric and his wife, Mami, and Deon’s mom, Marian. “Karen is a super mom, and she wants to take on the world by himself. But at this point with 14 children and one undergoing surgery, we know we need a nanny,” admits Deon.

After the birth of their latest babies, they’ll face devastating uncertainty as Karen slowly recovers and heals from her C-section, one of the babies needs heart surgery, they are tired, stressed, and have all the children at home to care for, too. But the Derricos don’t shy away from frightening issues, and in the show Karen will have a heart-to-heart with Deon about her intuition that he’s not bonding with the ailing newborn, Dawsyn. Is Deon already letting go because he suffered through a baby’s death with Carter? Deon is clearly hurting and defensive, but Karen patiently tells him, “All I simply want you to do is just bond with her, hold her. Feel that. Build a relationship with her.” It’s a delicate discussion for both of them. Karen has picked up on something that Deon doesn’t believe he’s doing, and as a result, he feels that his efforts to bond with his children aren’t being seen, and that his wife has been sitting on this concern rather than approaching him earlier. Watching them work through it is a valuable study in communication and family love and pain.

Watch Doubling Down With The Derricos S1 from Wednesday, 23 September on TLC (DStv 135) at 20:00

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