March 26, 2008 09:09 PM by Jennifer_Brown
Life’s a carnival for Christine Gillette and her family. Third-generation carnival workers, the Gillettes live in an RV and travel eight months out of the year, living each day “for today.” Christine and her husband Art don’t believe in setting limits, schedules, or expectations for their three children, and basically let the kids decide what to do and when to do it. The kids set their own homeschooling schedule, chow down on carnie food all day long, and score a big zero when it comes to pitching in around the house.
Christine is about to swap with Karen Turner, a professor who micromanages her two daughters’ lives. “Too much idle time causes problems” is Karen’s motto and boy does she live up to it. The girls are involved in crew, dance, golf, gymnastics, swim, and Latin, just to name a few activities. Most of the family time is spent driving from activity to activity, and when theextracurricular rigors are complete, Karen delegates household chores to the kids as well. “We never slow down,” Karen boasts.
Emotions run high early, as Karen criesthe first timeshe sees the trailer that the family lives in. “There’s no way in hell I’m sleeping in that sh*thole,” she says to producers. Art’s offended by her refusal to hang with the fam. “She’s just…phony,” he says. Karen scores a hotel room, but in the morning is still expected to show up bright and early for a little carnival work. She hates living a life with no schedule and frets during the day as the children are left to run around the carnival with no supervision. She’s further aggravated when her attempts to “home-school” them meet with outright refusal.
At the Turner house, things are much quieter, but no happier for poor Christine, who must rush the girls from one activity to the next. Christine worries that there’s no family connection in the Turner house, and confronts Karen’s husband, Tom, about it after witnessing the girls eating their dinners alone in their bedrooms. Tom suggests the family go get ice cream to “have fun,” but it doesn’t look like much of a success.
It’s Rule Change time! Christine gathers the Turners together and announces, “As of today, no more chores and no more crazy schedule of activities!” She reveals a plan for Tom to live a day in the life of his girls’ routines, as well as a plan for family time. “We’re going to live on a carnival!” she crows. “Whoop-dee-doo,” Tom says.
But the Gillettes are hearing, “The carnival is over!” at their Rule Change ceremony. Furthermore, Karen plans to introduce the Gillettes to the fine art of scheduling, which will include golf, gymnastics, and karate.
But Karen gets off to a rocky start when the schedule meeting doesn’t go well. Kenny, the youngest, struggles with karate, and tension mounts between Karen and Art as Karen wants Art to force Kenny to participate whether he wants to or not, and Art refuses. Golf doesn’t go well for the girls, either, although they really enjoy gymnastics and Latin. Later, when Karen takes the kids to a science class at a local museum, things go really well. “I’ve now learned leisure is time for doing something useful,” Art confesses. Karen wraps up her week by giving the kids a graduation ceremony, lauding them for being “future thinkers.”
If Christine was expecting big drama out of the Turners, she was surely disappointed. Tom and the girls play along nicely, pretending to enjoy family time. Tom suffers through his harrowing schedule without a peep of discomfort or dislike. But when Christine brings them to a carnival, the girls refuse to sleep overnight in the trailer, which they call “disgusting and germy.” Christine, offended, cries, and lets them go home alone. At home with no schedule the Turners are B-O-R-E-D. “I guess spontaneity sometimes doesn’t work out,” Tom says. Christine arrives the next day with a blown up photo of Karen and invites each family member to say whatever they want to say to it. Tom learns some things about his daughters that he didn’t previously know.
The two weeks are over and it’s time for the couples to reunite. At first it appears that it’s going to be an amicable meeting, but Karen ratchets up the heat. “Christine, I would not stay at your house if my life depended on it,” she says. She follows up that comment by calling daughter Jane “a lonely soul,” but when the Gillettes refuse to believe that about Jane, Karen and Tom storm out of the reunion, claiming that the Gillettes were insinuating that Karen is a liar. “She is nuts. She’s a total fruitloop,” Art says.
Since the Swap, the Gillettes have resolved to pay more attention to the children. The kids have gone back to school!
Photo Courtesy: ABC