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Reviews |  On the adorable ‘Old Enough!’  of Japan Spectacle and the State of American Childhood


While I’m not suggesting it’s advisable to let your kids go wild for a summer, I suspect that if “Don’t Tell Mom” ​​were remade in 2022, a moral of the story would be how much the mother was negligent. But in 1991, there was simply a happy ending for everyone involved. (Except, of course, for the babysitter. RIP)

Because art often reflects cultural values, these days in movies and TV shows aimed at kids and teens, there seem to be more secondary adult characters, mostly parents, helpfully floating around the edges . So I asked Kathryn VanArendonk, critic for Vulture and New York magazine whose Viral Twitter thread on “Old Enough!” first inspired me to watch the show, for its insight.

She compared the 1992 version of the children’s TV show “Ghostwriter” with the 2019 Apple TV+ adaptation her children are in. “The general premise is that kids get a message from a literary ghost and they have to solve mysteries. The show I remember watching was a group of kids solving their little messages on their own,” a- The new version is also great, she said, but she noticed “perpetual checking” with moms and dads, and “you can see the parent in the background.”

Experts regard the 1980s and 1990s as the time when American parenting began to become more conservative in this way. Lenore Skenazy, founder of Free-Range Kids and president of Let Grow, an organization that advocates for children to have more freedom, said a change began, understandably, when child abductions received extensive national media coverage. Etan Patz and Adam Walsh have become household names, and rather than viewing these cases as horrific anomalies, parents have begun to view child abduction as something more common than it is.

Skenazy said ill-defined child neglect laws also play a role. Many parents have told me that they want to give their children more freedom, but fear that if they let their 9-year-old go to the park alone, for example, they will end up getting a call from protective services from childhood. (Skenazy notes that this sort of thing really does happen.) Others might argue there’s not much downside to being extra careful, but research suggests something more complicated – a 2021 paper in the Journal of Family Psychology found that too much parental involvement can lead to poorer self-regulation in kindergartners. In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson argues that part of the reason American teenagers are so anxious is that their bubble-shrouded childhoods can leave them with no sense of competence.

America is vast, and parents know their kids and specific neighborhoods best—I’m not about to send my 5-year-old daughter to the bodega alone yet. But I hope to watch “Old Enough!” will inspire more American parents to consider the possibility that our cultural norms need to be reset, or at least rethought. I watched the show with my youngest, and she was so jealous and resentful that the children, some of whom were younger than her, were allowed to do so many exciting things, mostly on their own . See the looks of joy on the “Old Enough!” The little faces of the kids after finishing their daily homework certainly made me crave that sense of triumph for my daughters, but they could achieve it.



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