In recent weeks I've been hearing a lot about "Helicopter Parenting". I've been accused by my family (girls and husband) of being one. I always argue, contending that I am only concerned about their welfare and happiness. Aren't we as parents supposed to care about these things?
There are many bloggers out there that have small children. They have yet to experience what it's like to have teenagers, college students and/or kids that have "flown the coop". I have gone through every stage and with each one, my "hovering" has come in various degrees. But never, do I or will I believe that what I have done has damaged my children in any way.
I just read an article from Indiana University about this very subject. I must admit that while reading the article I felt that certain points screamed of my behavior, yet I have to disagree with some of them as being considered wrong or over bearing.
"Helicopter parents can be identified by their tendency to hover close to their child, ready to come to the rescue at the first sign of difficulty or disappointment". I ask you, whose natural instinct is to walk away from your child during these times? There is a fine line between coddling and being supportive. When my girls hurt, I hurt. It's that simple for me. I have been through their break-ups with boys. A bad grade from what they called an unfair teacher. Not getting into a sorority of choice. Not being played enough on the Varsity b-ball team. And hundreds of things that happened when they were growing up.
What have I done in these situations? Listen. Talk. Support. Sometimes I play devils advocate. Helicopter parents don't do that; their child is always right. I have never called a teacher to accuse them of being unfair. The mental emails I sent to the varsity coach remained in my head despite my wanting to wring her neck. Boyfriend break-ups? When your child is sobbing uncontrollably over this please don't anyone tell me that giving comfort and support is over bearing. That I have to let my girls grow a thicker skin and learn to deal.
Over the years there have been many situations in which I would have held my girls back from experiences if I'd allowed my over protective nature get the better of me. I suffer from GAD which I have written about in the past. It's a debilitating disorder to deal with and has made the avoidance of being a true helicopter parent that much more difficult.
In middle school the first time I was faced with them going away was their class trip to Washington. Sure, inside I was dying. Of course they would be kidnapped at the airport! They would get lost and separated from their group and be kidnapped. See a pattern here? But they both went. I easily could have said no, we couldn't afford it. This type of experience has arisen many times. There have been spring break trips. Trips abroad with friends. A two week trip to Israel that I barely slept through but could never tell them they couldn't have that experience.
My older daughter attended Indiana University where student Lauren Spierer went missing from in June, 2011. I know that my daughter walked alone on those same streets at night. I know she did a lot of the things that Lauren did that night she disappeared. It could have been her. Yet, I had to relinquish control when my girls were away at school. I wanted them to have the experience of their lives but with careful input as to what we as parents expected. When they are away however, all we can hope is that what we have taught them has sunk in. It is there they have to learn things on their own. They have to have some negative experiences to learn about life.
Both of my girls were fortunate to find jobs right out of school while the article claims children with helicopter parents have self confidence issues; difficulty finding jobs. A hovering parent doesn't typically allow a child to think they can do things on their own, without their constant help.
To be frank, I am excited to have them living away, doing their own laundry and cooking their own meals. I did it for all the years they lived at home. I did just about everything I could for them. But what I did was to love them, support them, guide them and be their shoulder. And yes at most times, I have been their friend.
They both say this: that they would rather have a mother that is like me than one that doesn't care. One that never cares where they are, if they're home, etc. Do I talk to them everyday? Yes, I do. Maybe not always a conversation but at least a text. When I go to sleep at night I just want to know my kids are safe. When they are in their fifties I will want to know too. My father still calls me everyday and wants to know I am safe.
We live in a crazy world. We give birth to these beautiful little beings and it's our job to do what we can to raise them right. I think I did it without a propeller on my head. I defy anyone to say otherwise.
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