Every Monday night I take my ten-year-old to basketball practice and I watch drill after drill, bored out of my mind. Last week, a boy plunked down next to me on the bench and leaned his head back against the wall. He wasn't feeling good. I don't know this kid (my son only recently joined this team) so I wouldn't think he'd want to talk to me, let alone initiate a conversation, but he did, and it not only caught me off guard, it made me realize how much kids are exposed to today.
After a few minutes, he said, "You ever watch Dr. Phil?"
"Yeah. He's on at four every day."
"No," I said. "I don't usually have TV on at four."
"You should," he insisted, leaning forward. "The guy's amazing!"
I must've given him a skeptical look because he carried on, as enthusiastic as a minister preaching to his congregation. "He, like, talks to people who are all messed up but don't know how badly they're messed up and then he gives them advice and tells them how to fix their marriages or get their families talking to them again or how to stop gambling and get a job so they can get their kids back. Things like that."
"Do you watch it a lot?" I asked.
"Every day," he confirmed.
"You must really like it."
"I do," he said, nodding. "It makes me feel better watching people with a lot of problems in their life, you know? Cause then I see I'm not the only one."
I thought about that all the way home. How watching Dr. Phil seemed to make him feel better about himself, and yet how sad it was that a ten-year-old would habitually make Dr. Phil part of every afternoon vs. climbing a tree or building a fort or laughing along with a more age-appropriate show like Sponge Bob.