Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a big family? Well, there are big families, and then there’s the Derrico family of TLC’s "Doubling Down with the Derricos." Deon and Karen Derrico always knew they wanted to have kids, believing however many children they had would be a blessing from God — but little did they know that they would go on to have 14 children, with all but two children having been born as multiples.
On "Doubling Down with the Derricos," the cameras follow Deon and Karen as they navigate life with 14 children and the ups and downs of raising kids who are all at totally different stages in their lives. The List sat down with the busy parents over Zoom to talk all about how their unique family story began, what makes their children so unique, and what we can expect from Season 2 of their show.
If you’ve watched Season 1 of the Derricos’ show, you’ll know that Karen and Deon are incredibly energetic and optimistic, so you’ll be happy to learn that they exude the exact same energy and joy in real life. Their love for one another and their children is simply palpable, and you’ll be shocked to read just how easy and fun they make raising 14 children seem.
Karen and Deon Derrico knew from the beginning that they’d have a big family
Did you envision your lives to be like this when you both were growing up in your respective homes? Did you know that you wanted to have lots of kids?Karen: Yeah, we did.
Karen: He took care of that the first or second date.
Deon: First date.
Karen: The first date he really took care of that. It pays to definitely be yourself when you’re meeting and dating because being myself got me with this wonderful husband I have. Girl, yes, for sure.
Deon: Every time I would freshly date a woman, I would always ask them about children and I never told them what I felt. I wanted to feel raw. I didn’t say I wanted children. I didn’t say I didn’t want children. I wanted the real raw answer. Every woman prior to her would say, "I want one. I want two. I don’t want any." I’m like, "Okay. Yeah. You’re not the one." Each time … Looking back on it now, it’s like an interview and each time, I’m like, "Yeah. No. No." I’m just losing hope and losing hope and then I meet her and she says, "I want as many as God will bless me with." Now, keep in mind, I didn’t have the magic –
Deon: – answer. I didn’t have the magic answer, but I knew I would know the answer when I heard it. I would be like, "No. Next one. Next. No." She comes and it’s like, "Oh, my God."
Yeah. You didn’t necessarily have the number 14 in your head, but you knew that you wanted to have a big family?
Deon: Yes, absolutely.
Karen and Deon’s very different upbringings had a huge influence on their parenting styles
I know that you had talked a little bit about how, Karen, you had a bigger family growing up, didn’t you?
Deon, you had a smaller family, isn’t that right?
I’m curious as to how you feel that different upbringing maybe affected your parenting styles?
Deon: In many ways…
Karen: In many ways, it definitely did. For me, I have like 18 cousins. This is all I know is to have a large family. My mom and my aunts and all would tell us, "Don’t bring no friends over to the family gathering next week. Not one friend can come over because there’s enough of you all itself." We didn’t even necessarily want anybody else over, because there was so many of us. For me again, having a large family, that’s all I know, is to have children and having cousins and all.
Deon: That brings up … why opposites attract, right? I bring the opposite side of it. It was just my brother and I. He was gone most of the time and so I felt like the only child. In many cases, the single children are only children, right? … That was applicable in my case, I felt like the only child and I was always lonely, always wanted someone to play with, which matured me because I became best friends with my mother. … Growing up, I said, "I want a large family. I don’t want my children to get a chance to be bored. I want there to be so many children in the house, that they don’t have to have friends outside the house." Of course, I want them to have friends outside of the house, but I’m saying I didn’t want them to grow up needing that. I had, I guess, the inverse of each other, but it wound up meshing so well.
Yeah. Really, leading to the same result in the end. That’s so interesting that you had such different upbringings, but, in the end, ultimately you knew that meant you wanted lots of kids and you wanted a big family and that really just proves that you are perfect for each other.
How do the Derricos feel about having more children?
Did it get to the point where it just stopped being surprising giving birth to so many multiples or was it still a surprise every time?
Karen: It is such a blessing. It’s so humbling, is what I’m talking about. It’s so humbling because we come from not knowing if we could have children together. Then, you have the miscarriages, and then you have a baby, and then you have some more miscarriages, then you’re like, "Okay. What’s going on with this?" I feel like God opened up the baby gates and then I always go back to feeling like Oprah. "You get a baby! You get a baby!" It’s like, "Wow." I feel that it’s never ever a dull moment. When we go to our ultrasounds, you would think that we are first-time parents.
Yeah, so fun and my OB, he already got money on the line. He’s like, "Look, I bet it’s going to be X, Y and Z." It is so funny. It’s a blessing. We’re just so thankful that we’re at this point where we can go inside and be grateful. It’s just a blessed feeling and moment, honestly, to go through.
Deon: For me, I would say, at this point, I’m not as shocked as I originally was. Having the twins, it shocked us. Well, let me back up. The doctors had told us, they thought with each of the first two pregnancies, originally they thought that they were multiples. But, of course, each time it wasn’t. Then, when we finally go from Dallas and Denver, which was our first set of twins, multiples, our minds was lower on it. That was, of course, when we get the shock and we loved that it was exciting that we waited. Then, the quintuples came, we were just blown away. Understand, they told us the first time that it was four. She started spotting and then we went back two days later and we thought we had maybe [a] miscarriage. That’s when we found out there was actually the fifth baby hiding behind mommy’s breastbone. That shock … Yeah. Getting past that shock. I didn’t think we would have the triplets, but I think I was still where I wouldn’t be as shocked. I’m not as shocked.
Do you feel like there will be a point where you see some sort of sign or a message where God is saying you’ve had enough or let’s keep it at the number that we’re at now? What do you think about that?
Deon: I think we are very, very connected spiritually just with reading the signs of life. I’m confident that we’ll know.
Deon: Yeah. We will naturally know when it’s that time. We can’t say one way or the other, but right now, we’ll naturally know. I don’t feel that and I don’t think you feel it.
Karen: I don’t feel like we’ve reached a dead end on this road. I feel as though this road is very clear and open.
Karen and Deon agree that this is the most fundamental lesson they’ve taught their children
If you had to pick one lesson that you think is essential to teaching your children with all of their different personalities and all of their different quirks, what would it be? Is there one thing that it always boils down to?
Deon: For me, it’s love and family.
Karen: I was about to say that.
Deon: That’s it. That’s No. 1, is love and family. That conquers so much.
Karen: I would say the same thing too, love and family. You’re going to meet different people on this journey of life. You’re going to go different places you all want them to explore. You’re going to always need someone that I’m sure you’re going to love. However, what is so important is your family is always there. You always have that close bond and connection because if someone out there don’t want to talk to you or be your friend or anything, you always can call them back and have … It’s no place like home.
Deon: Especially, I was just saying this earlier, we’re in a time where mental health is huge, right? Let’s be cognizant of mental health. There are so many variables to maintaining that health, but the No. 1 common denominator — no matter what race you are, no matter how old you are, no matter what gender you are, your sexual preference, your religion — the one common denominator is having that support group that will be there to hold you and let you know it’s going to be okay. Having a large family, that’s the one thing that has proven for she and I, and the rest of the family, is we always have each other and we bounce back much faster than a person by themselves. Our hearts go out to those that have suffered in the pandemic that maybe don’t have large families and they had to be in the house or an apartment by themselves. We actually know someone that took their life as a result of that. Yeah. Very, very sad. We really just want to pay respect to understanding the blessing that we have and wishing that upon other families.
I wonder if your children’s upbringings will inspire them to have large families of their own.
Deon: So far, they all say they want a lot [of children].
Karen: Yeah. So far.
Deon: If you think about it, if each child just had one, that would be what?
Deon: If I said each child had two, or if we average out to two, that’d be 28 and I’m sure we’re going to have … Something’s going to happen. But can you imagine, we talk about it all the time, our house will be lit. Our house will be turned up and lit. We want that. That’s what we desire.
That sounds so fun to just never really have to think about being lonely.
Deon: Yes, absolutely.
Karen: Right. Right. Never alone.
You got those built-in friends.
Deon: Yes. We did the math one day and we were like, "We got 14 children. If each child took care of us one month out of the year, we wouldn’t even get to all of our children in the same year." In the same year.
Karen: Because you are going to have some that’s like, "Mommy, I haven’t seen you in like 10 years now. When is my turn?"
How the pandemic affected the Derricos
I know you just spoke a bit about COVID. It makes me wonder what the biggest effect is that COVID has had on your family, whether that’s positive or negative.
Karen: The biggest effect COVID has had on our family is we shop and buy in large quantities because of our family size. When it comes to the buying and the supplies that we need, that has been majorly affected. When we went through that whole shortage of supplies, things like that and limiting the quantities of meat that you can get from the store, it was a lot because it was like, "No. This is our family size. We need that." That affected us. On a positive side, our children, we just saw even how much more entertaining they are. They always give us a weekly show. This time around, girl, we had matinees, encore presentations. We had it all. We had it all and definitely 2020 gave us that clear vision for all of us to see that COVID does not discriminate.
Karen: It definitely doesn’t discriminate. We learned that, we definitely learned that.
Deon: Yeah. I would say because she and I, we’ve done a great job mastering and we study mastery, working through the struggle. Right? We all have many challenges and struggles individually, collectively. For us having COVID, the biggest issues that we had was outside of this home and being limited in how much we can purchase. We purchase in large amounts because we use, we consume a large amount, right? Getting adjusted to that, thank God we believe in keeping somewhat of a stock of things where we’re able to live for a couple of months in case something happens, but also learned just how much more entertaining our children are and just enjoying each other. We always have family time, but COVID made us have family time every single night, but we enjoyed it. We really and truly enjoyed it. It was a blessing. … We made COVID a blessing in this house.
Karen: We’d be in the middle watching TV and one of the babies would come knocking and just perform. They’d be like, "Back by popular demand."
You’ve raised some funny kids, some really funny kids.
Karen: Yeah, it’s fun.
Deon and Karen open up about the challenges of having a large family
Having 14 kids, there’s got to be some challenges, right? What comes to mind about the challenges of having a big family?
Karen: I would say some of the challenges are they’re a different age range. We have a 15-year-old that’s ready to drive and then you look all the way down at our almost 2-year-old triplets, and we’re like, "Oh, I guess it’s potty-training time." I’m making bottles. She’s talking about, "Can I get the car and can I get a bottle?" Like, "Girl."
Deon: We have potty training and driver’s training.
What a juxtaposition of life events happening at once.
Karen: Yeah. Oh, my God. Yeah. You got Pre-K. I’m looking for preschools for the 4-year-olds and high school for the oldest one.
I’m just so curious as well about the filming process of having a big family. I’m picturing even logistically getting microphones on everybody and navigating the cameras in your house — that’s got to be difficult for anybody to have cameras in their house, let alone when you have a big family. How’s that been?
Deon: Well, I’ll say that it’s been, believe it or not, very smooth. Because when the cameras are here, they’re out of the way. Thank God for TLC for doing a very great job understanding our family and that they know how to move around our family. It’s like they’re not … That’s why when you get a chance, when you watch our show, you can glean just how natural everything is unfolding because we forget that they’re here. Of course, it is very complicated everyone [is] mic’d up. That takes … That’s an hour.
Karen: Oh, we got to be ready at 9:00. We’re up at 5:00.
Karen and Deon explain how they keep their family ready for anything
On the show, you talk about asking your children to do things in birth order. I think that’s incredible. It’s so cool watching the show and seeing how they just do it, they know.
Karen: You know when you were in school, you said get in line? You were just bumping, hitting, everybody trying to figure out, "I want to be in the front. I want to be…" Guess what? You’re in birth order. You’re getting in the order you came in.
Deon: Yeah. We have so many children that we practice a fire drill. We actually have a fire drill in the house. We have a fire drill plan. We also have a plan in case, God forbid, we’re out somewhere and some type of shooting occurs, which God forbid, we hope that never happens. But as parents, we have to be cognizant of that and we have to be as prepared for that as possible because we have so many children. It’d become a disadvantage from a safety [perspective having] that many children and maintaining control over everything and everyone in a safe way. We have to think ahead with everything.
There’s got to be comfort in it for them to know where they line up and this is where I go. It doesn’t seem in any way that they’re doing something they don’t want to do. It seems like they enjoy the process just as much as you do. That doesn’t seem like something you can teach. That seems inherent to your family.
Karen: Thank you.
Deon: Thank you.
Karen: Thank you. … One of the things that I’ve learned from [Deon] is that everything has a place. Just like everything has a place, every person also has a place. You have a place, you’re not just here. You’re not just here. We help them and we nurture their strengths and we’re not just parents saying, "I’m taking care of you until you’re 18," and working with them.
We see that you like to dance, we encourage that dance, but also there’s a balancing act, right? You can’t just get up in the morning time and get out the bed and go. You have to stop. If you don’t clean up, then there’s time out. There’s consequences for things that you don’t do correct. This is our job right now of correcting you in these early stages. I love the fact that our children don’t run around all day, "Now what do I do? Now what do I do? Now where do I go?" We know it has a place, you have a place, and this is what you’re supposed to be doing.
Especially because there’s so many parents that use the "because I said so" type of mentality, or "because I told you to do it," rather than explaining, "I need you to do this, so that you can get home safely or so that you’re not lost or so you can understand that doing your chores is important."
That’s not because they’re afraid that you’re going to get mad at them. That’s them understanding fundamentally why it’s important to do this thing.
Deon: That’s absolutely right. We’re the parents. We’re always the parents. We do not negotiate with them.
Karen: No debate.
Deon: Right. We may not have the opportunity. In case of an emergency, we don’t have the opportunity to let them know, "Hey, this is serious, listen up." They need to know when we say it, it’s go. But we also take the time like [Karen] just said, and we break it down. Why? Why we do birth order? Someone may do some crazy crap and we need to get out of an emergency and we can do it safely. This is why we do birth order. Because poppy and mommy want to make sure you all are always protected and safe. That’s our job. We break it down to them on their level.
Deon: That’s very important.
How Karen and Deon connected with TLC
You said earlier that you feel so lucky to have found TLC. How did you connect with them in the first place?
Deon: TLC. We love TLC and discovery+. We had been on a couple of talk shows. As a result of that, we were in the local newspaper here in Vegas. Coincidentally, Lori Ansaldi was looking up large families and coincidentally that Monday, we had [an article printed] in the paper and she looked us up that Tuesday. She googled big families and we were the first to come up, the Derricos. She won us over by explaining the whole process, what would be expected of us. Then, at that point, she came out. They filmed what’s called a sizzle reel of our family. Then they took that sizzle reel and they pitched us to various networks. Of those networks, TLC was the one that really fit us just with their positive outlook with families, how they support their families, the things that they believe in, the type of questions that they asked us to make sure that we were able and mentally fit to be on television, our children were mentally fit to be on television. These are qualities that we were hoping to connect with considering we were thinking of doing a show. We just wound up being like the perfect marriage, if you will.
Was there a point at which you woke up and said, "Our family is special. We should get them on TV. We should share them, share this experience with the world," or was that something that happened over time?
Deon: I think every family is special and every family feels that they’re special if they’re not special. We, of course, thought our family was special, but more than that, she and I had dealt with so many challenges. We had an array of things we’ve experienced at this point. We didn’t realize how many people hadn’t experienced so many challenges that we’ve experienced, but we had no one to go to. We never had no one that we could touch who had that same experience, who could take us by the hand and say, "Hey, I got you and let me show you how this is done." For us, when TLC came, that was our greatest opportunity to give to others what we didn’t even have. We didn’t have someone school us on having so many miscarriages and how to overcome those miscarriages. We didn’t have someone school us on … She grew up in a household where breastfeeding wasn’t common, so she had to figure out herself. That seems to be our constant blessing, I’m going to say now, is as being entrusted in a situation that we’re totally not used to and having to figure it out and always landing on two feet. We owe it as being our blessing. We owe it to bless others.
Karen: Yes, absolutely.
People can turn on the TV and say, "That looks like my family," when they watch your show. You have such a positive effect on so many people that watch. If that was your goal, I think you did it.
Deon: It is humbling. You’re right. At the end of the day, I think we show that we all have the same desires. No matter what color you are, no matter what race you are, what your religion is, your sexual preference, none of that matters. What matters at the end of the day is how you connect with those people that you’re close to. We have the same desires. We want education for our children. We want to have fun with our children. We want to live long, healthy lives. … We want the same things overall and I think that’s the one thing that people glean from our show is they get chance to see, "Wow. This is us."
Deon: They’re watching themselves in us.
How Karen and Deon keep their family on a schedule
Can you describe a typical day in your family? Is it different every day or do you stick to a routine so that everyone knows what’s happening?
Karen: A little rigorous school schedule. I want to keep the summer school this summer. We got birthdays over the summer that we have to do, but we get up in the morning time, the triplets is our alarm clock. Wake up to screaming out, "Poppy." Then, I get up … I get up to them, changing them, getting the breakfast together. The other one’s mosey up, start brushing up, getting ready, eat their breakfast. I have their homeschool worksheets and things outlined for them. They start on that. He’s probably rolling over at this point. This is all around 7:00 or 8:00. By 10:30, first shift is over. I’m done. I’m like, "Look, we can all go back down to bed at this point."
Deon: She needs a nap at that point.
Karen: By that time, park is already spread out. Everyone has eaten breakfast. Everyone’s ready. Then, noon, babies, the last five go down. The 4-year-olds and our toddlers, 2-year-olds almost, they go down for their nap for about an hour and a half to two hours.
Deon: Hold on. Then, nap time flies.
Deon: Then, every part of the day just drags along.
Karen: By that time they’re napping, we’re trying to figure out who’s going first. I go first, and I try to order and do as much as I can online, so it’s easy for me or him if he’s in that area. Dinner, he’s over dinner. I don’t cook. Cooking for me is a science, definitely. We have dinner. We have our family time. They’re in bed by 8:30, 9:00. Our time, we sit and we try to regroup for the next day.
When is your couple’s time or your alone time, if you do get it?
Deon: Every night.
Karen: Every night.
Deon: For the most part during the day, we’re just really dancing around, running the household. Then, at that time, that’s when she and I just have our time together and we really appreciate each other. We really appreciate what we have. We’ll talk about what one of the children did earlier that day that made us laugh or who messed up their schoolwork or things like that. Then, she’ll start planning out the next day’s curriculum. I’ll normally go in the classroom with her and she and I will talk while she’s getting their curriculum together.
Karen and Deon love these qualities about their children
What do you think makes your kids really unique? What really stands out to you?
Deon: For me, I would say just the love, the camaraderie that they have.
Deon: Of course, she and I raise them that way, right? But raising children, it could go either way. You do one thing and something else happens. But so far, with ours, they seem to really emulate the things that they see us doing and they seem to mirror all of the qualities that we’ve wanted them to have just watching them interact and play with each other. She and I are envious. We’re literally watching them, wishing we were their sibling also. Then, she and I will start wrestling with them and it’ll be the boys against the girls and girls against boys.
Deon: We have, honest to God, a ball.
I think that is a sign that you did it. You did a great job raising your kids if you want to be friends with them.
Deon: I want to be their friend. It’s funny, we had taken them out a couple of weeks ago and there was a little boy who he didn’t want to share, and all of our children was sharing with everyone. The parent came over and asked us, "Excuse me, what childcare did you put them in because I can’t get mine to listen like that." But we teach sharing. You have no choice. We also teach them that through sharing you actually have more fun. It’s no fun if you have a toy to play by yourself. It’s more fun when you’re sharing playing with that toy. I think they got that concept. That concept has basically transcended into their overall relationship with each other. That’s the best quality that we see is that they really truly are family-oriented. They write their own little songs and all their songs have something to do with either love –
Deon: Or family.
Deon: God. Everything. This is coming from them. They say, "From the heart, the mouth speaks or from your heart your actions will show." Their actions are showing. "Wow, mommy. We did it. This is what we wanted."
Karen and Deon tease the next season of Doubling Down with the Derricos
What can we expect from the new season? Is there anything you can tell me?
Karen: Oh, gosh. From this new season coming, you’re going to continue to see obstacles and challenges for how we embrace them. We embrace them by not just saying, "Oh gosh, this again," and sit down and go in a corner. We embrace it together. No one wants to go through any type of different challenges and stuff constantly. We feel with us, at some point, it felt like we were being attacked, but as opposed to sitting down and both of us having a moping party about it, we sat down and we devised a plan of action. How are we going to take care of this? How are we going to handle it? You will see the challenges that we face in our family. We’re just like you. How we’re facing these things during a pandemic. How do you do that?
Deon: You’ll also see us deal with a 15-year-old teenager who wants to date and we’re not happy.
Oh, my gosh.
Karen: Yeah. She wants to date.
Deon: You’ll see the surgery that’s coming up that someone’s going to need. You’ll get to see that roller coaster. That’s just an emotional roller coaster ride, literally.
Deon: You’ll see that and see mommy is still battling with having a nanny.
Karen: Oh, yeah.
Deon: You’ll get a chance to see that, and get it figured out.
Karen: You’ll see a lot of growth. You’d be amazed at how much bigger all the children have become. You get to see that and just see our relationship, once again, is taken to another level and the closeness you have in this, so you get this array of emotions this season again. We definitely bring that.
Karen and Deon Derrico’s advice for new parents
Actually, I do have just one last question. I promise it’s the last one. Any parenting advice that you want to leave our readers with?
Deon: Yes. I’m glad you asked. I thought you’d never ask. For me, it would just be to really be cognizant of your children and be cognizant that everyone don’t want children, and that is their right. It’s [not] our right as being parents to allow our children to infringe on others. I think that’s one of the biggest qualities and things that both Karen and I realized. We never want our children to infringe on someone else. We’re always cognizant when we’re out in public as to where they’re sitting, making sure that they’re not disturbing the peace and privacy of someone else. These are things we’ve seen when we go out. Our children are well-behaved and respecting everyone and then we get the children that’s attacking us and we’re like, "Okay. Get your child. He’s cute, but get him." As parents, we take pride in leading them and making sure that they understand we don’t live here just by ourselves. We’re in this with other humans, that we have to respect them.
Karen: I would say personally to mothers out there, I know I have my whole plan in mind. I’m going to do this today. I’m going to go there. I’m going … Guess what? I beat myself up for sometimes not sticking to that plan, but it is okay to not be okay. Seriously, it will be okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t feel less than a great mother if you’re not sticking to this plan or things are not going the way you thought that it would go in motherhood. This is a different type of hood that we are all in when it comes to motherhood, for sure. Just give yourself time to breathe, relax, and have a self-care day. That’s something that I am huge on now just going through my own personal struggles with it. Just give yourself time to breathe and it’s okay. It’s seriously going to be okay.
"Doubling Down with the Derricos" premieres on Tuesday, June 1 and airs Tuesday nights on TLC at 10 p.m. ET/PT.