‘Extreme Guide To Parenting’ Reflects Our Fears

extreme_parenting_sizedI was psyched, super psyched, when I started seeing promos for Bravo’s Extreme Guide To Parenting. Crazy-pants parents with hard-core philosophies and zero sense of humor about it? Could it get any more awesome? I prepared by exercising my eyeballs and jaw, so I’d be ready with my eye rolls and my “WHAAAAAA?!” expression.

I have to say, the series premiere wasn’t quite as shocking as I’d hoped it would be. In fact, I kind of understood where they were coming from. Don’t get me wrong, the parents are definitely a little bananas — obsessive, overprotective and even delusional at times. At the root of it though, they’re really just “extreme” examples of parents who want to feel some sense of control over the lives of their little ones. Although I don’t really agree with their methods, I certainly get the motivation. We all can relate.

We start with Shira, the self-proclaimed, “eco-kosher, shamanistic, aromatherapy” Mama who spritzes her kids in the face with healing spray (it’s probably Poland Spring and lemon slices) and says she can read auras. Her fourth-grader, Yonah, is apparently an “indigo child” (translation: blue-purple aura kid). He’s out-of-control, angry, hyperactive, all of which is supposedly typical of so called indigo kids who are here to change the world…perhaps spinning the Earth with their frenetic energy. Unfortunately though, his mom uses his aural assessment as an excuse, to avoid putting him on medication. As she says, “He’s exactly who he’s supposed to be.”

Except, he’s getting into trouble in school, acting out, and generally just driving the whole family crazy. Shira is so obsessed with finding alternative, shamanistic ways to treat his ADHD, that it’s all she thinks about, to the point that she ignores her older daughter. And she’s clearly exhausted.

Look, I’m really opposed to over-medicating kids, but some children actually need it. You can see in just 20 minutes of footage that Yonah is one of them. I mean, he’s kicking and throwing like my 3-year-olds having a tantrum. At one point, it looks like he’s going to jump off of the house. Something is wrong, and it’s clear that air spray and singing bowls aren’t going to fix it.

When the school finally says, “Hey, enough is enough,” she decides to sit down and ask Yonah what he wants to do. Yeah genius plan, Mom, he’s totally going to get on board with that. As expected, the kid says he doesn’t want to go on medication, because all of his friends think he’s hilarious and it’s just the teachers who don’t understand him. He’s right in some ways — listening to authority and doing well in school are definitely not important life skills. Maybe this indigo kid is on to something! So instead of meds, Shira finds Yonah an alternative school which seems to be working out well. I mean, with all of their “Yay, Yonah”-ing, they’re still ignoring his sister and he’s still a problem at home, but hey, nothing a little spritz of healing water couldn’t fix.

Then, we meet gay dads, Scout and Bill, the “guncles” we saw on Tori Spelling’s reality shows (squeeee!). Their 3-year-old daughter, Simone, is clearly everything to them, and they have shifted their lives to be with her 24/7. They call their parenting style, “All Baby. All The Time.” The focus on their family is commendable–they set up a home office, Scout’s mom is their nanny — Nana. Problem is, they won’t let that little girl out of their sight. And they need to micro-manage every little detail of her day. I mean, they barely trust Nana!

When Nana dares to ask for a sleepover, and suggest that the couple have a night to themselves, Scout and Bill refuse. So, she issues an ultimatum: Either let her granddaughter stay over, or she’s done being their nanny! The dads won’t budge and neither will the tough old broad. And so now they’re stuck trying to find a new nanny who fits all of their criteria–basically, someone who follows all of their rules, doesn’t make childcare suggestions, and is happy to play all-day shut-in with their little girl. Shockingly, no one seems to be quite as good as Nana. So they agree to her demands and the dreaded sleepover.

Little Simone packs two suitcases and her dog (seriously, she packs her dog), then spends the night with her grandmother — they put on lipstick and wear matching tiger-striped pajamas. You can see the little girl is thrilled to be with Nana — comfortable, happy, confident. Maybe Scout and Bill need to think about cutting the cord more often.

Look, parenting is scary for so many reasons, not least of which is the fact that you live with this fear of anything ever happening to your beautiful kids. The kind of love you feel for them is so intense, so all-consuming, that you would do everything in your power to keep them safe. Shira is afraid the ADHD medications will harm her son, so she tries every other holistic method she can to heal him. While I’m not going the holistic route with my kids, I certainly try to feed them organic foods and don’t give them medicine unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Scout and Bill tried for years to get a baby, and now that they have Simone, they don’t want to let her out of their sight. I tried for years to have a baby as well, and maybe have that extra bit of gratitude as a result. Still, I leave them with sitters, take breaks, and try not to micro-manage their care. I don’t love my kids any less. Maybe I just trust my caregivers more. I also believe that some separation is good for them and good for me. As Scout and Bill realized after ten days without help, looking after toddlers full-time is tough!

I believe that the best thing we can do for our children is help guide them through the world, not ask the world to conform to them. We need to let them explore and have adventures and try new things, even if it means that they’re sometimes out of our arm’s reach. We want to control every little thing about our kids lives because we feel like it will keep them safe. Still, as scary as it is, you ultimately need to have some faith and let go, for your sake and for the sake of your kids. Hopefully, at some point, these “extreme parents” will realize that too. Even now though, they’re not the total loonies I was hoping to watch — they’re your typical overprotective, overly-cautious moms and dads…just to the nth degree. 

Photo: Bravo Media