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As if they couldn’t possibly walk a couple of blocks, or make their own lunch or climb a tree without hurting themselves, or struggling too much. They’re kids who are expected to WANT to grow up and do things on their own.

And then, when they show us they’re ready, we allow ’em to.

It’s a collection of Sesame Street highlights from its first years, 1969 — 1974, and it shows kids playing Follow the Leader through a vacant lot, climbing through a giant pipe, balancing on a piece of wood, laughing as they wind their way through some sheets on the line to dry.

Of course they’re happy: This was public television trying to model ideal childhood for pre-schoolers.

Law & Order was something you believed in, not something on the air 8 nights a week, made to look depressingly real.

The other day I got a letter from a guy in an old Brooklyn neighborhood where they shoot a lot of Law & Order scenes.

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But at the very beginning of the DVD, before you see any of this, there’s a warning: “For adult viewing only.” In just one generation, what was considered a normal, happy, HEALTHY childhood has become considered WILDLY dangerous. We’re swimming in fear soup — fear of lawsuits, fear of injury, fear of abductions, fear of blame.In 2008, I let my then-9-year-old ride the subway by himself.He’d been asking us — my husband and me — to please take him someplace and let him find his way home by himself. Our boy knows how to read a map, he speaks the language and we’re New Yorkers. That’s how it came to be that one sunny Sunday, after lunch at Mc Donald’s, I took him to Bloomingdales — and left him in the handbag department. I gave him a map, a Metro Card, quarters for the phone and for emergencies. And if he needed to ask someone for directions — which it turns out he did — I even believed the person would not think, “Gee, I was about to go home with my nice, new Bloomingdale’s shirt.Bloomingdale’s sits on top of a subway station on our local line, and it’s always crowded with shoppers. But now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.” Long story short: He got home about 45 minutes later, ecstatic with independence.I wrote a little column about his adventure and two days later I was on the Today Show, NPR, MSNBC and Fox News defending myself as NOT “America’s Worst Mom.” The notion was that I had deliberately put my son in harm’s way (possibly to “prove” something) and I was just incredibly lucky that he made it home.On TV, it’s always the backdrop for a rape or murder.

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