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In 2008, I let my then-9-year-old ride the subway by himself.He’d been asking us — my husband and me — to please take him someplace and let him find his way home by himself. Our boy knows how to read a map, he speaks the language and we’re New Yorkers. That’s how it came to be that one sunny Sunday, after lunch at Mc Donald’s, I took him to Bloomingdales — and left him in the handbag department. I gave him a map, a Metro Card, quarters for the phone and for emergencies. And if he needed to ask someone for directions — which it turns out he did — I even believed the person would not think, “Gee, I was about to go home with my nice, new Bloomingdale’s shirt.It was put on the air after countless psychologists and child specialists signed off on it.But at the very beginning of the DVD, before you see any of this, there’s a warning: “For adult viewing only.” In just one generation, what was considered a normal, happy, HEALTHY childhood has become considered WILDLY dangerous. We’re swimming in fear soup — fear of lawsuits, fear of injury, fear of abductions, fear of blame.On TV, it’s always the backdrop for a rape or murder.In real life, he said, it’s a safe, quiet safe neighborhood — and therein lies the tale: There’s a big disconnect between the horrors on TV and the reality we live in — the safest time for children (in America, that is) in the history of this disease-plagued, famine-prone, war-wracked world. ” It’s an attempt to figure out how we got so much more worried for our kids in just one generation, and to separate the real dangers from the ones foisted upon us by the media, and by other folks with things to sell (like baby safety product manufacturers who have to scare us about a remote danger like “traumatic head injury from toddling” before we’ll buy their products, like the “Thud Guard” — a helmet for kids to wear all day when they’re learning to walk).As if they couldn’t possibly walk a couple of blocks, or make their own lunch or climb a tree without hurting themselves, or struggling too much. They’re kids who are expected to WANT to grow up and do things on their own.And then, when they show us they’re ready, we allow ’em to.
They deserve a chance to stretch and grow and do what we did — stay out till the street lights come on.
But at the mall, or movie theater or dentist’s office, that would be considered the handicapped parking spot — the one you need if you are really disabled.
So somehow, in our understandable desire to do the very best for our kids, we have started treating them as if they’re handicapped!
It’s a collection of Sesame Street highlights from its first years, 1969 — 1974, and it shows kids playing Follow the Leader through a vacant lot, climbing through a giant pipe, balancing on a piece of wood, laughing as they wind their way through some sheets on the line to dry.
Of course they’re happy: This was public television trying to model ideal childhood for pre-schoolers.Bloomingdale’s sits on top of a subway station on our local line, and it’s always crowded with shoppers. But now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.” Long story short: He got home about 45 minutes later, ecstatic with independence.