I’m a Helicopter Mom, and Proud of It

I know it’s absolute taboo to be admitting this, but here I go nonetheless:  I’m a Helicopter Mom, and proud of it.

Now, before you lob admonishing judgments in my direction,  I already know what you are going to say.  I’ve read all the parenting books, starting back when my first was barely a blip on the ultrasound screen, extracting bits of advice from the so-called experts.  Let the baby cry. Observe, without interfering.  Resist the urge to rush over to kiss a skinned knee.   I was indoctrinated with the message that one of the most important aspects of this parenting gig is to raise kids who want to break your heart by actually leaving you.

And who can argue with this?  Of course we all want our children to grow into self-reliant, self-sufficient, independent adults.  So we Ferberized straight away, and never allowed a child to climb into our bed at 2AM. We tried (admittedly, it got easier with each subsequent child) to stand back and let them problem solve without stepping in with a quick fix.  And, as my kids can attest, we are generally unsympathetic to the routine bumps and bruises.

As they’ve gotten older, we’ve employed a ‘do-it-yourself’ mentality –we’ve taught them how to use the can opener, load the washing machine, de-frost a bagel.  Want some water?  You know where the sink is.  I forgot to pack your snack?  Too bad you didn’t remember for yourself.  Left your homework at school? You may walk back to get it, if it’s that important. We’re either teaching them to become more independent and self-minded, or we’re simply (as my son recently complained) employing them in a sort of legal sweatshop.  Either way, I’m all for this type of hands-off, tough love mentoring.

But when it comes to academics and adolescent social minutia, you darn well better believe I will be hovering right over them like an apache helicopter, ready for battle.  Don’t tell me to stand back and allow these bumbling teenagers to stumble along on their own, that they need to have the freedom to fail, because that’s all a bunch of baloney.  Give them the chance and the average teen will choose to take the easy way out and to skirt the rules. And don’t even get me started on their startling inability to refrain from succumbing to peer pressure. 

So why is it considered good parenting to simply watch as they make bad decisions – to excuse stupid behavior, bad judgment, and even sub-par academic performance as a normal by product of adolescence and a necessary step towards independence.  Personally, I don’t buy it. Instead, I will set guidelines.  And I say to my son:  I will read your essays for Language Arts, and we will discuss (sometimes in raised tones) why the words Thing and Stuff aren’t unacceptable words for 8th graders.  I will check the Grade Portal weekly and require an explanation of a missing homework; I will sit down and discuss the steps needed to write a clear, concise science summary, and I will have my husband (sadly, I’m lost after 3rd grade math) periodically review math homework, just to make sure assignments are up to date, and concepts are being understood.

And, yes, I will monitor and limit your Internet use. I want to know which games you are playing, and whom you are chatting with.  I will check your history on a weekly basis, and in case you didn’t already realize, we’ve installed a watchdog app that blocks certain sites. 

I want to know who your friends are from school, and if you’re going over to someone’s house, I need to know if their parents are home, what time you are coming home, and what you will be doing.  And if you want to go ‘hang out’ in town, how about coming home instead.

Think my helicoptering is a tad too overprotective? Well, guess what.  My son is a remarkably independent, self-reliant young man.  He gets himself to and from school each day, on time.  He does his homework, without prodding.  He babysits his sisters, feeds them dinner if needed, gets them to bed, and, if asked, will even read them a bedtime story.  But he’s far from perfect, and few teenagers are, so while I will never do the work for him, I will certainly be a partner in his education.  And while I don’t have any interest in shadowing his every social move, I do want him to know I am watching.  

Am I the dreaded Helicopter Mom? I suppose I am. Do I regret it?  Not in the slightest.  If he ends up back in my basement, maybe I’ll have second thoughts. But for now I will continue to whirl above him, with love.

Written by Jenny Tananbaum, Suburban Mom, Google+