One of my favorite TV shows is going off the air. Little People, Big World is a reality program that follows the lives of the six members of the Roloff family. The parents, Matt and Amy, are dwarfs who have four children–Zachary, Jeremy, Molly, and Jacob, only one of whom (Zach) is also a dwarf.
I’ve always loved to look into the everyday lives of others–especially other families’–to see how they manage life’s many hurdles. I find it an interesting sociological experiment and a good way to evaluate how I do things in comparison with others, and to reflect on what I could do better. So when I first discovered this show on TLC, I was thrilled that not only does this family have four kids as I do, but their interests and personalities are similar. Despite some physical challenges, they seemed as normal as normal can be.
At first, the premise of the show revolved around the Roloffs as a dwarf couple fitting into an average-size world. It highlighted some of the struggles they go through–sometimes little things like not being able to reach the higher shelves in a supermarket to bigger issues such as dealing with name calling and needing surgery. After watching the brief first season, I was hooked. It became apparent to me that the Roloffs were a family like no other yet, at the same time, like all the rest of us. I found that my family had so many similarities to this family–from the number of children they have to their everyday routines to the the way they interact with one another. I could relate to their little triumphs (a winning soccer season, a successful family vacation, job changes, managing both a home and a career), their everyday issues (celebrating holidays, struggling to get the kids to do homework, teaching the kids to drive, running the kids around from school to games to home), and their challenges (the death of a dear friend, legal trouble, medical issues).
The Roloffs’ lives paralleled my own and my family’s so much that I felt as if this family and mine were kindred spirits even though we had never been formally introduced. But as the seasons wore on (there eventually were six), the Roloffs’ lives began to change, as all of ours do. The show that at first focused on the family’s struggles–financial as well as physical–turned into a show about a family who was well-off, one with many vehicles, many luxuries, many opportunities the rest of us will never have. The Roloff home transformed from a simple farmhouse to a McMansion and people began commenting on the message boards that this family had definitely overcome the struggles apparent in the first season to something almost unrelatable by the average viewer.
The producers too began focusing on the tension in the family, especially the marital tension between Matt and Amy (perhaps trying to capitalize on the ratings soar that Jon and Kate Plus Eight experienced after that couple publicly aired their marital problems before splitting up). It appeared that the episodes featuring bickering–scenes that actually played out in real time or were stacked through editing–were the shows causing the most buzz on the Internet, and the producers turned LPBW into a series almost too difficult to watch.
But watch I did, having seen through the production ploy and realizing, as so many message board posters didn’t, that even the healthiest of long-term marriages will have their struggles. Being that the shows were about one full year behind the Roloffs’ actual lives, they were not a true reflection of what was occurring real time. Following up on the Internet, I could see that the couple was still together, that the family was still intact.
But, even so, the changes in the family were unavoidable. Amy had turned from a stay-at-home mom and part-time preschool teacher to a celebrity running a charity foundation–a position that can only spring from a boost of fame and not at all the career she would have had if the cameras had not made her into a public commodity. Although Matt continued with his original businesses–being a motivational speaker, making a kit to accommodate dwarfs in hotel rooms, and managing the family pumpkin farm–reality star was also added to the roster.
And even without these career moves that occurred only after the series brought them fame, the family itself was obviously evolving. No longer do the kids need to be chauffeured to soccer games; by season six, three of them could drive themselves. No longer do the kids need to be carefully supervised by a parent; half of them are now adults in college. No longer can all six find the time to coordinate family vacations, let alone family dinners; they’re on the road or in the air or otherwise engaged. The kids now have lives of their own away from the farm, and so do the parents. So, the need for LPBW in its original format is no longer there.
For the sake of the kids, it’s apparent that the time has come to drop the show and gain some privacy. But nonetheless, those of us who saw this family as a reflection of our own lives will miss them all. No longer will we be able to pull up a stool at the Roloff kitchen counter while Amy puts together the evening meal or watch Matt cook up another outlandish attraction for the farm. Now we’ll have to try to catch a glimpse of the family on the farm during pumpkin season, if we’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance, or through the many public avenues that they still access (blogs, Facebook pages, weekly coffee chats, You Tube videos). I’ll keep dropping in, wherever I can find them. After all the Roloffs had practically become extended family to me. And it’s too hard to say goodbye completely.