Thanksgiving with Dr. Phil

You know you need Dr. Phil if you’re watching him on Thanksgiving. But if indeed you do tune in, you’ll see a rerun of “Extreme Moms.” One of them is me.

Extreme?

I’m on the show as the mom who let her 9-year-old take the subway alone, a fact that will be chiseled on my tombstone. But really I’m there, I think, as a foil for the other moms who worry so much about their children’s safety that they hardly ever let them out of their sight. Literally.

Not to give too much away, but it sure felt like Dr. Phil didn’t really consider me extreme. He seems to believe the same thing a lot of us on this web site do: That, given love and preparation, children are usually more capable than we think. Also that we make them less confident and competent the more we try to “save” them from the everyday vicissitudes of life.

A middle school here in New York City just gave its sixth graders an extra credit “Free Range” project: Do something on your own that, for one reason or another, you never tried. The 11-year-olds jumped into action and did everything from making dinner to baking a cake to walking to school – all the kind of sweet, simple things they would have been doing without a second thought a generation or so earlier.

What was different was their trepidation: “I thought they were going to abduct me,” wrote a young man who took the subway solo home from soccer on a Saturday morning. A girl who made herself a sunny side-up egg admitted, “I was scared. I didn’t want to burn myself.” Another boy walked proudly five blocks to and from the grocery only to find out at the end that his mom had trailed him the whole way, through one of New York’s fanciest neighborhoods. She didn’t trust him to make his way safely.

This kind of fear gets passed on from the culture to the parents to the kids. “Extreme” may be one word for parents trying to buck it, but another word is “old-fashioned.” Or even, “confident.” Or even, “sane.”

In an era when a walking a couple blocks is considered daring for a 6th grader, I guess it’s no surprise that “sane” and “extreme” are one and the same.

Happy  Thanksgiving. I’ll be there, in all my extremeness, in your living room. —  Lenore

 

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