How The World's Worst Mom Can Make You a Better Parent
byEricka SouterJan 22, 2015
An invitation to meet the World's Worst Mom, Lenore Skenazy, was just too hard
to resist. That's not a title many of us would bare so proudly. Though, as a
writer who has written her fair share of parenting horror stories, the term
"worst" is certainly relative. You see Skenazy is the devil
incarnate to over-protective, ever-hovering helicopter moms worldwide. The
founder of the Free Range Parenting movement, she rose to mommy blog infamy several
years ago after writing a column about why she let's her 9-year-old ride the
New York City Subway alone.
"No, I did not give him a cell phone," she wrote. "Didn’t want
to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him
to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the
34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a
stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, 'Gee, I was about
to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child
Not surprisingly, people were outraged, calling her behavior
child abuse. But Skenazy never wavered and championed her hands-off brand of
parenting. So going into this meet and greet, I had a lot of preconceived
notions. I envisioned an uber-crunchy type who lobbed free range rants at
everyone who didn't prescribe to the theory 100%. I couldn't have been more
wrong. She was charming, funny, self-deprecating, and most importantly, an
incredibly good listener. And that son of hers who was thrown to the transit
wolves so early -- he was a pretty cool, well-adjusted kid too.
I have certainly been guilty of sticking too close while my son played on the jungle gym and intervening too often in his spats with friends.
Now Skenazy is
intent on converting all those helicopter moms with a new reality show aptly
titled, The World's Worst Mom (premiered last night on Discovery Life
Channel at 9/8 Central). Needless to say, the families featured are at the
complete other end of the spectrum. The first episode centers on a mom who cuts
up her 10-year-old's food, feeds him, and dotes on him as though he's still a
toddler. Riding a bike? Out of the question. A sleepover? Forget about it. In
swoops Skenazy to save the day ... or at the very least save this kid from a
lifetime of mommy issues.
It seems this series comes at the perfect time. The debate
about how much freedom we should give our children recently made the national
news when a Maryland couple was investigated for neglect after letting their 10
and 6-year-old walk a mile home from the park. It's a scary thought for most
moms I've spoken to, but Skenazy has a good point -- coddling your kids too
much can hurt more than it helps. They need to learn to be more independent.
They need to start figuring things out for themselves. Of course, the question
is, when is the right time to drop them in the deep end without a life jacket?
I have certainly been guilty of sticking too close while my son played on the
jungle gym and intervening too often in his spats with friends. Though, as I
watched these two extremes come together on World's Worst Mom, I
appreciated how Skenazy didn't try to bully the over-wrought mother who freaked
when she learned her child was on a city bus ALONE. Instead, she tried to calm
her fears and show the benefits of letting her son grow into a young man. He
was beaming with pride when he took that first bike ride, and so was his mom. In
future episodes, Skenazy helps a woman who has taught her kids that friends'
parents may seem nice, but they will kill you if they get you alone and another
who has told her children if they eat even a piece of candy they will get
diabetes. Yes, an intervention is definitely called for.
That said, there is no way I will be sending my six-year-old son off to the 3
train anytime soon. But perhaps we all could be more open-minded when it comes
to our children's capabilities. We need to trust that we've taught them well
and that they will be okay. "This show isn't about parenting,"
Skenazy tells Mom.me. "It's about fear and replacing fear with reality.
You have to accept, this kid you love isn't a baby anymore."