My kid is a genius, handsome, funny, kind, creative. I am sure of it! I turn away candy, toy guns, commercial tv, video games.
And this world will not hurt him. Because I am RIGHT THERE. All the time. Aren’t you?
Making sure nobody steals his toys, cuts in line in front of him at the playground, hurts his feelings? Right? Protect and serve, that’s us, right?
In the hospital with pneumonia, I chide his doctors: please wash hands in front of me. One says, “that vigilance has gotten him this far.” Awesome.
Years later, I overhear the neighbor kid “Aw mom, I don’t want to play with him, he doesn’t know how to play my video games.” Oops. Am I hovering too much?
I answer the phone at the front desk of the academic library: “Yes, um, I see that you are hiring a curator? My daughter’s background is in x, y, and z. Should she apply? How many applicants have you had so far?”
Wait, what? Oh no. That’s wrong.
Let me reflect a moment. He’s ten. Our pediatrician has been coaxing me to prioritize his social life, spend time with his friends, give him some space. It clicked.
That’s where I’m headed, isn’t it? Finding him work. Going on job interviews with him.
In cultural analysis we use the term “overdetermined” to describe how several different factors come together to create a very particular situation. A kind of cultural “perfect storm.”
I learned to parent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – the first of three pressures leading up to my “parenting trifecta.”
Nope, parenting did not feel natural or intuitive to me. In the moment, I could not figure out why. In retrospect, how could it possibly? Thing 1 came three days on the right side of viability; three days earlier and they would not have tried to save him. Four years later, that doctor praised my vigilance. Six years later, I am at a crossroad. It felt so good to grow up, move away, forge my life. He should be able to do that, too, and I need to travel a different path to allow him to self-actualize. My next blog posts will cover a) my own 1970s childhood and late maternal age and 2) parenting in a culture of fear as other overdetermining factors.
Do struggle with hovering? I’d love to know your thoughts and strategies in the comments below.
Read more about “helicopter parents” here: