'Old Enough' on Netflix -- what is the takeaway?
Like many others, I have been enthralled by Old Enough, which is a Japanese show airing on Netflix about free-range parenting in Japan.
In the short episodes (they're about 7-15 minutes long) a Japanese toddler (age range is about 2 years 10 months to 5 years old) run their first errand, unsupervised.
Well, there are several camera people following the toddlers, but they are "unsupervised" as far as the toddler is concerned.
In the first episode, a little kid just under 3 years old is sent to pick up some curry from the grocery store. He walks several blocks -- crosses a highway!! -- gets the curry, pays for it, and returns home. There are some bumps along the way, but overall he is wildly successful. AND IT IS ADORABLE.
Now. As a parent of a toddler myself, I'm struggling to find the takeaway. Is it that American parents are too coddling, and kids are way more capable than we give them credit for? Is it that Japanese parents are too free-range and aren't correctly calculating the risks?
I've come to the conclusion, though, that the takeaway is this: you can create a community that you want. It's not a foregone conclusion that kids "can't" do certain things, but it might be a foregone conclusion that our communities aren't built for them to have such freedom.
Parts of Japan have built neighborhoods and communities where it is safe to have 3 year olds go pick up flowers on their own, lay them at a temple's altar, and toddle on home, alone, just in time for a nap. It's truly lovely to think about. And it's truly inspiring to watch.
It's the community, not the kid nor the parent, that makes autonomy possible.