I am the best helicopter parent ever!

helicopter parent

Best parent ever! – Funnermother.comMy kid is a genius, handsome, funny, kind, creative.  I am sure of it!  I turn away candy, toy guns, commercial tv, video games.My kid is a genius, handsome, funny, kind, creative.  I am sure of it!  I turn away candy, toy guns, commercial tv, video games.

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.

But.

Parenting

Best helicopter parent ever! – Funnermother.com

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.

Right?

helicopter parent

Best helicopter parent ever! – Funnermother.com

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.”

prematurity

Best helicopter parent ever! – Funnermother.com

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:

US News & World Report

Canada.com

CNN

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16 thoughts on “I am the best helicopter parent ever!

  1. Angela, I don’t know what a helicopter mom is- that term eludes me- but I DO know what it is like to be a mom that fears for your child’s life and to place myself in that gap of lifesaver, gatekeeper, warrior mom. My first daughter came to me only four months after I turned sixteen, and within months she was whisked away from me again and back into the hospital for what would become a her entire childhood struggle with asthma, immune deficiency issues and chronic pneumonia. Letting her go, letting her reach out into adulthood was THE single scariest growth journey I have ever taken.
    Baby steps, baby. Your child will lead you.

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    • Ah, Wendi. Thank you for your comment. That is my struggle exactly, the movement from sick child to coping pre-teen (in preparation for being a competent adult). Letting go is not natural or intuitive to me, so it is strengthening to know that it can and does happen! I did add a couple of links to recent press appearances of the term ‘helicopter parent,’ fyi. Thanks so much for your comment. xx angela

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  2. oooh I’m sighing as I know this all too well, Josh wasn’t a prem, in fact he was a week overdue but I’ve had a few life threatening times in hospital with him, that were very borderline. I’ve been through the child to pre-teen (cotton wool around him to blanket next to him) and I’ve gone back again and I never quite know where I am on the scale, at the time. I started and instigated the transition, gently 18 months before secondary/high school and I found it quite odd that other non-autistic mum’s around me were still in cotton wool stage and denying the whole thing was going to happen, amongst cries of “they’ll stop being my little … and childhood will be gone forever” – that puzzled me even more as they already weren’t their little …. but the mum’s were doing an A* job at avoiding their own emotional growth. I was told what I should be doing etc but I adapted a very touchy/feely intuitive attitude to it – nurture when he needed it and step back a pace or two when he was managing quite nicely. I now believe I’ll have this attitude throughout my life, sometimes it will be helicoptering but he will soon tell me, I know because he can’t stand fuss, just like me. And yes it will be different to his peers who don’t have any special needs but he is on his own path, not theirs. Sometimes I just need to give him a hug because I’m his mum but I tell him I need to, for me and that helps him understand relationships a bit more. What I found has helped is me being able to recognise when he’s having a hormone surge – he’s much less likely to want any kind of nurturing at that point. Of course now he’s got social anxiety to phobia level I questioned myself and methods for months then realised it was because I listened to “them” and ignored my instincts.

    Hopefully in 15 years time he’ll be living as independently as possible and I’ll have swapped the helicopter for a fighter jet, that’s on an aircraft carrier, just off shore – can get there at a moments notice, when called!!

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    • Wow. I mean WOW! Using hugs to teach about relationships is a great tip. He’s getting a flip lip and rolling his eyes when I say “let me give you a hug.” And you are right, it’s something moms want, too. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting or needing a hug. But wanting to keep childhood in your life — happy idyllic ideas about your childhood or their childhood — is robbing them of their own path. So I like the idea of telling them “I want a hug” and being able to speak your feelings. And, Lou, I LOVE the imagery of a fighter jet on an air craft carrier just off shore. That’s going to be my go-to image! Thanks so much for reading, and for your thoughtful comments. xx a

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      • If I NEED a hug I don’t necessarily ask him, quite often I’ll go and hug him and he’ll instinctively hug me back. It’s a good way of teaching them others have feelings and needs too because it isn’t always known. Love you lots dear, you’re an awesome mom xx

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  3. I was definitely the helicopter parent in the early days. I was totally that mom making sure no one hurt them or cut in line!! Then I started to realize I could not be with them at school and a few stories of hurt feelings came home. That was the moment I realized I could equip and empower them, comfort and listen to them. But it was going to be up to our kids what cards they played and how in this world. A huge challenge as a mom, and a great gift to our children.

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    • Huzzah! Teaching the kids to handle it, right? We don’t need to be going along on job interviews, or to “Bring your parents to work” days (for real, google it, ug!). It seems personally hard for me to let that ship sail, but a social imperative to do so, rather than handicapping the kids and disempowering them. Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by my blog. xx a

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  4. My mom was a neonatal nurse. She used to care for the premie babies. But, growing up, I don’t remember her as a hoverer. Far from it. I look around and I see so much over protectiveness, even the government going so far as to protect us from ourselves (nothing personal in regards to your post, just a general observation on society). Now, I’m going to sound like an old fart for sure when I say, “Back in MY day…” we didn’t wear bicycle helmets, we built tree forts in the woods and played out there until well after dark, we walked to the bus two, or three country blocks away because that’s where the bus stop was. We often came home and were on our own until Mom or Dad got home from work (only a couple hours, not a big deal). We didn’t worry about hand sanitizers or catching something from playing in the dirt. We didn’t have video games, but we sure did like our Bugs Bunny. We figured out how to socialize and did our best to defend ourselves against the bullies on the bus…because, hey, you had to stand up for yourself or that would make things worse. We also knew the value of competition. Someone had to win and someone had to lose…but boy, when you won, that sure did make all the hard work worth something!

    Despite all this, we grew up just fine. This isn’t meant to sound like a rant, and I don’t have kids, so I can’t fully relate, but…no matter how hard it may be, come in for a landing and let your child experience life. Let them make mistakes, let them find joy in their triumphs. Let them explore, and yes, get hurt on occasion. Give them the tools and teach them how to use them, then let them go out and create something on their own. All of you will come through it just fine.

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    • Deborah, no apologies needed. That’s how I grew up, too! I’m trying to find my way to meet in the middle, because I don’t want to let my self get into the position of calling around to see who might hire my child. I’ve dealt with the current “entitlement generation” and it is not something I want to build my kids into. So this is the beginning of my realization that it’s time to let my preemie grow up, and my rather public journey to work that out. Hoping others find it helpful, perhaps even try their own version of it. Thank you so much for your comments, they are just perfect to show how far we have come in coddling our kids into helplessness. Thanks!! xx angela

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  5. a quote that I love came back me this morning over 1st coffee …

    “having a child means watching your heart walk around outside of your body”

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    • That’s exactly it! It is full on terrifying! But I have to get him ready, you know? I have an older friend, in her mid-70s, African-American, still has her Alabama accent, and she tells her kids “Live your life like I’m already dead!” Haha. But she makes her point — they have to be able to fend for themselves. I want to ensure he goes forth boldly, not intimidated and worried all the time…..

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  6. Helicopter from a traumatic start seems like a natural struggle. Brava that you have reached the place of balancing your desires and fears for him. It is not easy work and the thing that makes raising children the most important thing any of us will ever do. Great and important share.

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    • Thank you so much, Patrice! That old feminist mantra from the 90s comes to mind — the personal is political. And after dealing with some 20-somethings in an academic setting, I want to set him up for ….mmmm… generational success, maybe I could call it? And I’m hoping others will join me. thanks!

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  7. You have a real flair for writing. And I think, as Patrice said, parenting is a swinging tightrope of desires versus fears. Having never been a parent, I don’t know for sure. But I do know as a free spirit child that too much hovering may not be a good thing. I rebelled like crazy (I’m a second kid . . . classically the rebel) and would have loved instead parents would really saw who I was and respected and trusted that. But it was the sixties, a difficult times for both of us . . .

    I think balance or, as they say in one of my favorite books, Lost Horizon, moderation . . . is the key.

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    • Jill, thank you for your comment. I am loving the swinging tightrope analogy! Yes! And, you inspire me to think that “seeing” a person is not “controlling” the person — I am a first kid and rebelled in secret at the same time I was begging to be sent to a private school so I could learn Greek and Latin! Ha ha. Moderation, yes, I should have it tattooed on my eyelids. Thanks for stopping by the blog! x a

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