Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Helicopter Parent

(I copied this image from smartcollegevisit.com. If that's not okay, please tell me and i will remove it.)

Okay, so I'm having a moment. I have a "moment" at least once a week where 2 things happen,

1. I turn into this fierce mama bear version of myself and get seriously righteous, indignant, overzealous and loud.

2. A voice in my head that sounds a lot like my darling husband accuses me of being a helicopter parent.

Are you familiar with the term? Wikipedia defines it as "a colloquial, late 20th and early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.... It is also called "overparenting". Parents try to resolve their child's problems, and try to stop them coming to harm by keeping them out of dangerous situations....Some college professors and administrators are now referring to "Lawnmower parents" to describe mothers and fathers who attempt to smooth out and mow down all obstacles, to the extent that they may even attempt to interfere at their children's workplaces, regarding salaries and promotions, after they have graduated from college and are supposedly living on their own."

Helicopter parenting has bad connotations, at least I think it does, and so I do not want this label. I took the quiz here http://www.babyzone.com/mom/motherhood/helicopter-parent_83221 to see if I am a helicopter parent. I got this result:

Your Score: 19/30
Nice job! You’ve found a good balance between being too hands-off and too involved. Encourage your child to make some easy confidence-building decisions like choosing what to have for dinner, or where to go for a playdate. Giving her a bit of freedom will benefit you both.

So darling husband, according to the reliable folks at babyzone.com, I am not a helicopter parent.

 Except I'm still not sure.

Now back to my moment.

In the car on the ride home from school today my oldest son (age 7) burst into tears as he told me how he had to stay in at recess because he wrote a word wrong in his planner. He was a little mad that he missed recess but he was mostly mad that

1. His teacher told him to rewrite everything with better handwriting when she kept him in, but he had to stay in until he wrote one word correctly. He felt he should have been told about the incorrect word the first time.

2. He never had to stay in before when he wrote sloppy or skipped words so he didnt understand why today was different.

He then went on to explain to me that when she told him he had to stay in he started crying and she told him, "When you cry at home your parents give in. You need to learn that you cant cry to get what you want."

Finally he explained to me that he missed directions and was scared at lunch (that he would miss recess again) because the rules had changed and that he was sure he was going to be in more trouble.

I was seething!!!!! As I listened in the car I begin to think up ways to agonizingly make her pay for the damage she had done to my sweet darling son. Then, as I became more clearheaded, I began wording a fiercely written letter of complaint to the teacher and principal in my head. As my son described the conversation of how he "gets away with crying at home" I began clearing my schedule so that I could stomp in and very publicly give that teacher a piece of my mind in the morning, and then my darling husbands voice crept in whispering "helicopter, helicopter over my head, I choose the color and the color is..."

So now I have left my moment but I am still in a quandary.

Here's my dilemma:

1. My son does have messy handwriting and I have been asking the teacher all year to keep him in at recess and make him write neatly. So technically I should support her efforts today. EXCEPT, I asked all year and her randomly choosing to do it when there are exactly 2 days of the school year remaining serves no purpose other than to confuse and frustrate my son.

2. I work at the school so going in guns blazing or writing a scathing report means that I am not just protecting my son I am also alienating my co-workers.

3. There are 2 days left in the school year so is it really worth my stress when it wont help my kid in the long run?

4. Who the hell does she think she is saying that I let my kid get away with crying to get his way! She has no clue what happens in my home, this is totally inappropriate to say to my son and should have been a discussion with me if it was a real concern, and I have been saying all year that my sons have begun crying at school(when they were never criers before) and she has been telling me that it is not a concern and basically asking me to back off.

5. If my son receives disciplinary action, such as being held in at recess, I SHOULD BE NOTIFIED.

So, with all these thoughts clouding up my head, I came home and googled "helicopter parent" and enjoyed this article http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1940697,00.html and then decided that I am half in and half out of the helicopter parent craze.

HELICOPTER: I fight a lot of battles for my kids, my argument would be that they are 5 and 7 and not necessarily capable of fighting the battles for themselves just yet.

NOT SO HELICOPTER: On the other hand, I let them fail, a lot.

HELICOPTER: I attend or am involved with every one of their activities.

NOT SO HELICOPTER: I give them large amounts of self directed time at home to make whatever mayhem they deem necessary or follow any whim that may occur.

But, like I said, I have a lot of these "moments." Last week it was the unwarranted unapproved activity of feeding popsicles to my children, I mean honestly, who do these people think they are?!?! I ended up not saying anything. but the thoughts in my head were seriously nasty and at least one friend had to hear me gripe loudly as I stomped my feet in frustration.

This week its missing recess.

Whatever will I do with all my free time this summer when there is no man to hold me down and no institution to uprise against? Don't think for a second that I'll lay around idly sipping mimosas. Nope, I'll be busy worrying if they've met their developmental milestones, agonizing over health care options and pushing them to stay educated during their off season. Mostly, I will drive myself nuts with lots of thoughts about these things and put forth little to zero action to actually do something about these things.

Yeah, I dont think I'm a helicopter parent, I'm too lazy for the constant hovering. I'm more of a bomber plane. I sneak in occasionally, make a huge mess of things and then sit back and go over each agonizing detail until I get my plans worked out to strike again.


  1. As a child it would have been a real strength to me to know that my mom and dad (or my mom OR dad) had my back, especially when an adult thought they could get away with treating me poorly and/or saying inappropriate things to me, because there wasn'tt anyone else. I was instructed to share any intimidating, hurtful, or uncomfortable situation with my mom, but when valid concerns were not addressed by my parents, with the culprit, it began to occur to me that looking to my parents" for support might be a waste of my time and trust.

    I feel there are definitely times and places for "helicopter parenting" if that's what they're calling it these days', I prefer to call it "God's Charge for Me As A Parent" and sometimes it should be done as a storm trooper and sometimes with gentleness, forgiveness, and kindness., but I always tried to do it , because I had always wondered why, when I was so little and helpless when facing an adult, that my parents didn't have my back.

    You are a WONDERFUL parent! I would have thrived under your parenting. All of these situations are best judgement on a case by case basis. Everyone will have a label and opinion to stick on/at you, but i prefer to label myself , 'My Chldrens' Advocate' (even when they are 30 years old!)

  2. Correction, first paragraph: "because there wasn't anyone else around."

  3. Love you Trish! I love the label, "My Childrens Advocate." I think the helicopter song in my head helps me to take an extra second to decide if the fight is worth it.

    Parenting is such a tight rope walk though. Im always in danger of falling off the side of overparenting or underparenting. Its hard to just be a parent and not always second guess yourself.

    Guess thats where God should be fitting into my equation. Thanks for the reminder to look to him for guidance and be at peace with the decisions he helps me make.

    Also love "I would have thrived under your parenting." Plenty of joke fodder here but really that is one of the sweetest things you could say to me!

  4. I would have--no joke :). PS: overparenting? I have never thought of you as a 'smother' just a caring, involved mother.