Dinner at the Derrico household is a rhythmic affair – dad, Deon, whips up the feast fit for the family of 16, and then the dance to lay the table begins.
“I'm the cook; I'm the chef for the most part. So, I start days in advance. We're always planning ahead of time with everything that we do when it comes to mealtime,” says Deon, a real estate investor based in US’ Nevada, in an interview with Gulf News.
“We just prepare as much as we can; we know what our children like to eat and we just prepare the meals accordingly. Once the food is done, it's all hands on deck in this kitchen. Someone's passing out the plates, someone is making the drinks and it's a lot that goes into it. So, it's about a whole 30-minute routine by the time we all sit down,” adds mum Karen, who doubles as a homeschool teacher for her brood of 14, which includes twins, triplets and quintuplets.
The couple, who have their own reality TV show called ‘Doubling Down with the Derricos’, season three of which will air in the UAE on TLC, channel 212 on OSN in the UAE on April 13, say they’ve always wanted a big family. “When we were in our early dating stages, we were talking about just different things and Derrico asked me, ‘So how many children do you want?’ I was like, ‘I want as many as God blessed us to have’, and to him, that was like, the golden buzzer answer. We thought this journey was going to be quite easy. We were met with some challenges with two miscarriages and then we had our baby girl, our Darian, and then we had two more miscarriages. And then we had our son and that's when the multiples started coming in and that's the part that we were like, not prepared for at all.”
The family also had to deal with the loss of a pregnancy last year – this makes, says US magazine ‘People’ – the total number of miscarriages they’ve had to cope with seven. The couple spoke about their latest loss in June of last year, when they told the magazine in a statement, “Even though we aren't strangers to miscarriages, it's still a tough heartbreak to endure! Our hearts are broken and pieces of it go out to others that have endured this pain.”
Everyone has challenges
When asked about the challenges of running such a large household, Deon is quick to point out that every house has its issues. “In a household where there's a couple, there [are] challenges, because you have to adjust to the other person, right? And then when you have a household with an adult or adults and a child or children, that [brings] a certain level of challenges, but when you are faced with having to raise multiples at one time, everything just pertaining to those multiple children requires way more than it would [with] one child. So, it's two pair of pants, two shirts, four pair of socks, more diapers. The cost and the challenges are just double and if you have like multiples, like we have triplets and quintuplets now, it's quintupled.”
He adds that society is perhaps not as equipped for large families as you’d think. “As a whole, you think about it, when you go to the grocery store, it only has one spot for one child to go in the grocery basket, right? They don't have three or four or five places for a child to sit in a grocery basket. It’s things like that, that become a challenge, especially when we had the pandemic, we were limited in the amount of food we were able to purchase at one time because we were looked at as hoarders, because the average person had no way of knowing that we were a family of 16.
“So that's a challenge of having a large family. But the great part of it is just all the love, the joy, the laughter that's in our home on a daily basis, just having the hugs and kisses from our little babies all day, wrestling and chasing each other around the house and playing hide and go seek,” he adds.
Having kids of varying age groups and all the tussle of schedules that entails meant the Derricos needed a strategy for teaching that worked for them. So even before COVID-19 resulted in shutdowns, they already had their lesson plans in place. “Prior to COVID-19 our children were already home schooled. It was just a lot at the time. We already had our triplets that were in the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit]. And for a whole list of reasons, but we decided to homeschool them,” Karen says, recalling the period in 2019 when she gave birth to the premature babies, daughters Dawsyn and De’Aren, and son, Dyver. The babies had a few complications from being born too soon and Dawsyn needed heart surgery for a congenital heart defect before they were released from hospital.
As the couple wound their time around the newest members of their family, the lessons were also planned in a way that worked for them. “So by the time COVID-19 started and schools were already starting to pause for the major outbreak, we were already adapted to our schedule, so we just decided to keep them at home. It's been a really great help and blessing to have all of them at home. I'm able to teach each one of them individually based on their learning needs, adapt to it, and just customise the curriculum as much as I can. They have a great home school programme that they are connected with, and with that programme, I'm able to sit down and customise work with educators. They have blended learning and then I do the home school with them that way,” explains Karen.
As with any school kids, there are bound to be disagreements, but say the Derricos, they’ve got rules on how to address differences. “We do not allow arguments at all. We're constantly teaching them what’s proper and what's improper or what's appropriate and what's not appropriate behaviour, and we teach them how to work out their differences. We allow them to debate,” says Deon. “They don't have to agree, but they have to respect the proper order of understanding, listening, explaining, and we show them how to overcome those differences. So, you rarely see arguing and of course, whenever there's an outbreak, some kind of way of an argument, we instantly get in there and say, ‘Hey, who broke down the communication? Because if you guys are arguing, clearly someone does not understand what we're trying to teach you all’. That's when they'll [tell us] who it was.
“We also make them look at themselves. [There are] many times in life we blame other people for our mistakes [instead of] looking at ourselves and that's one of the things that we're constantly [trying to do] … because we realise they're going to be adults one day and they have to learn how to get along with each other, which will also transcend into their relationships with their husbands and their wives outside of our home and just getting along with other people in the world. These are just core things that need to be taught to children that are going to one day become adults,” says Deon.
From kindness and compassion to investing tips and more, the Derricos want to share their insights on raising a large family. “Well, we have been on this journey of parenting and when Deon and I sat and talked about this, we didn't have that person to go to and ask, ‘What did you do when you found out you were having quintuplets?’ Or, ‘What did you do when you found out you had twins on the way?’ We didn't have that. So, we have always asked to be that type of mentor, parenting goals for other parents out there and when the opportunity came along [for a TV show], we thought about it, prayed about it, and we were like, maybe this is our greater purpose, to help other parents along. Parenting multiples doesn't come with a manual. So we would like to, in a sense, be that manual for others,” she says.
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