The Personal Toll on Helicopter PARENTS

Hi Readers! Just back from the dead, after a grilling incident left me with second degree burns on my right hand FINGER TIPS! Bad news for a blogger (and YEOW!!!!!). So I went to the E.R. and got some very powerful pain drugs. So powerful that they left me lying on the floor all day yesterday, lifting my head only to vomit. Now, happily, my fingers are fine (tap, tap, tap) and I have vowed never to take a Vicodin again.

And now, on to less personal gripes.

Check out this essay, “Helicopter Moms, Heading for a Crash,” from Sunday’sWashington Post . It’s by Margaret Nelson, author of Parenting Out of Control, and it basically says that by the time you have watched TV with your kids (to make sure it’s appropriate, and discuss relevant issues) and done homework with your kids (to help and guide them) and played with your kids and driven your kids and watched your kids at soccer/dance/chess/lacrosse, there’s not a lot of time left for your other relationships: With your spouse, your friends or your community.

I really related to the homework part. My husband and I DO spend a ton of time helping one of our sons with his homework and we  watch the evening dribble through the hourglass until but a few grains are left for teethbrushing and good nights.

Sometimes this time drain it’s not just a reflection of hovering and helicoptering — at least not deliberately, on our part. Sometimes it really is externally imposed by a society that demands a ton of kids and, by extension, parents. For instance — not that this is such a time sucker — but almost every quiz my sons take at school has to be brought home, reviewed and signed by a parent. Why?

And that’s not to mention the paperwork, the forms for every activity, the giant projects that a kid COULD do on his own…maybe in a few years. But it seems to me that sometimes the schools treat 8-year-olds like middle schoolers, middle schoolers like high school kids and high school kids like graduate students in advanced particle physics at Princeton.

Anyway, perhaps that’s a bit off topic (okay, AND a personal gripe. Just like I promised to move away from! It’s the Vicodin hangover typing.)  What I liked about the Washington Post piece is that, rather than castigate helicopter parents yet again, it mourns the richness of life they give up: the time to volunteer for a political campaign, or have dinner with friends. As Nelson says at the end:

Many of the helicopter mothers I’ve spoken to have told me, often with pride in their voices, that their daughters are their best friends. At first, I wondered why these women — some of them in their late 40s or 50s — wouldn’t prefer to spend their free time with people their own age. But as I looked more closely at the way they are tackling parenthood, I understood: They have no free time.

All the more reason to try to go Free-Range — not just on a home-by-home basis, but also to encourage a society that lets kids be kids, so parents can be part of the bigger world, too.  — Lenore

A Note to the Pregnancy Police

Hi Readers — Here’s a great comment that came in response to the blog post, Driven Crazy by Pregnancy Perfectionists. It reminds us of a truth we’ve been encouraged to forget in our “blame the parents” society: We are not in total control, ever. Not of what happens to us, and certainly not of what happens to our children.  A reader writes:

Sorry, there are no guarantees in life.  I followed the rules for the most part, though not to any extreme — probably didn’t eat enough vegetables or get enough exercise (still don’t). But I did have every prenatal test to make sure everything was fine.  It all came out normal.  I felt fine, the pregnancy progressed fine, the birth came early but was otherwise fine –and then my daughter was born with a birth defect.  One that would have killed her in an earlier age; fortunately we’re not in an earlier age, and they fixed it and she is TOTALLY fine now.

And for a while I blamed myself — what did I do??  Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Was it one too many baby back ribs from Chili’s?  Was it my shocking avoidance of pregnancy yoga?!?  Then I realized — it was nothing.  It was a misfire during the building process.  A dropped stitch.  No process is foolproof or perfect.  This was a universal truth we all understood a few generations ago.  But we’ve become so accustomed to the illusion of control that modern life gives us that we’ve become responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to us, and that’s just ridiculous.  Little of what’s going on in there is in your hands.  So you may as well relax. — Dahlia