For years I’ve enjoyed the clips on YouTube of “My First Errand” where it’s been running for decades in Japan. The very existence of the show demonstrates how we think about parenting and childhood are impacted by our cultural influences. Young kids go on their first unsupervised errand, but with an army of cameramen and shopkeepers prepared for the situation. Japanese parenting is designed to build resilience, trust in the community, and independence. Given that Japan’s culture this is perfectly reasonable, but now that the show is on Netflix as “Old Enough!”, American parents that parents quite differently, has more than a few parents watching this nervously and scared that it might even be dangerous.
The NPR article include an editor’s note about how this might not be acceptable to bring here because of local laws. CBS highlights the parenting debate, but in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald sees this as a whole glimpse into childhood innocence and growth. Some just see an adorable show. We are caught off guard in the United States, and Netflix viewers are rooting for these toddlers that are given far more autonomy and responsibility than toddlers are given here. Other note that while this might work in a Japanese cultural context with pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, they don’t see how it could work in an American context.
Personally, I love that they are teaching children that they can develop some independence, resilience, and competence. We often assume we are the norm, and this is one case that shows American parenting culture in 21st century suburbs, does not represent the what has been normal throughout history, nor in other places. Some like Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt have argued that “the Coddling of the American Mind” has had some negative consequences as children who never were allowed to grow and experiment then reach college campuses (I highly recommend the book since this 1-sentence synopsis doesn’t do it justice).
The Daily Show even bit a bit saying that the show “divides parents.” (5:48-9:00 in the clip below)