Bravo’s ‘Extreme Guide To Parenting’ Is The Trainwreck We All Hoped It Would Be
I have been waiting for almost a month for Bravo’s new show, “Extreme Guide To Parenting”, because if there was ever a reality show that I was actually going to watch, it was this one, given my obsession with finding a “parenting style” to traumatize my child with. The long-awaited premiere finally came last night, and while it is everything that I dreamed it would be and more, it was hard to celebrate because holy crap, it turns out that it really is possible to mess up your kids by projecting all of your issues on to them.
To be honest, I came away from the show feeling kind of, well, sad.
Take the Adler family, with “eco-kosher, shamanistic, natural, and for the highest and best good” matriarch Shira at it’s helm.
Shira lives with her boyfriend Andy and her two children; Emma (12) and Yonah (10). Yonah is special because he is an “indigo child” according to his mom – who can TOTALLY see auras, you guys – which is why he can get away with telling Shira that her cooking sucks, he hates her, and that he wants to chop people’s heads off. Shira doesn’t mind, because while Yonah might be tough to handle, he, like all Indigos, is here to change the world.
You know who does mind? Literally every single other person that we meet, but mostly Emma, who gets to settle for whatever’s left of her mother’s attention, which usually involves more conversations about Yonah. When her eyes start to well up about how shafted she’s getting in the Adler household, you just want to slap Shira’s aromatherapy spray out of her hands and chuck her dumb Reiki crystals and gross gluten-free muffins at her face.
Shira’s refusal to even consider medication or therapy for a child that is clearly out of control and struggling in a very real way made me kind of ragey. Like Yonah, my siblings and I were not allowed to have medication or see therapists, even when the alternative meant dangerous consequences and took a very serious toll on at least two of us.
But Emma had it much, much worse than Yonah. There was no space for her in her mom’s life; every conversation and interaction revolved around Emma’s brother, and you could see how badly it hurt her to beg for (and not get) even just the scraps of her mom’s affection.
Then there were the Masterson-Horns, a gay couple and their daughter, Simone, who is three. Simone’s two dads, Bill and Scout, practice something they call “all baby, all the time”, which appears to suck as bad as it sounds. Basically this involves them hovering in an almost painful way around their (admittedly) extremely adorable child; picking her outfits, checking on her every five minutes, and trying not to get their respective helicopter blades tangled up together.
“Helping” them out is Nana, Scout’s mother, and within the first five minutes of the show, I was securely on Team Nana for the duration of the episode. Because they paid Nana to watch Simone, they felt pretty justified in treating her like absolute crap, chastising everything she did, refusing to let her sit at the table when she got to the house in the middle of breakfast, and putting the kibosh on a Nana-Simone sleepover, which caused Nana to tell them to find a new nanny, cause she was doneskies.
You want to laugh at their reluctance to hire a new nanny that wants to take Simone to the zoo or park because that meant they would have to miss out on having her near them, but you can’t because you realize that this child will bear the burden of validating her parents for the rest of her life. She’s still very young, but I can’t imagine her feeling comfortable asserting any kind of independence when it would so clearly break her fathers’ hearts.
Eventually Nana gets her sleepover, and you can see just how much it traumatizes Simone; what with all the manicures and the giggles and the matching leopard print PJs.
By the end, we’re supposed to be able to sympathize with both of these families, but I just can’t. I can sympathize with some of their struggles, some of their feelings (medication can be scary; who doesn’t fear missing something important with their kids?) but the methods they use make one thing really clear:
Nothing about raising their kids is about their kids. It’s about themselves, full stop.