Tag Archives: families

Helicopter Parents – Why We Are the Way We Are

With the beginning of another new school year, I have been thinking a lot lately about this label that has been thrown around for several years now – “Helicopter Parents.”  Everybody knows those parents, if they are not those parents themselves.  I am most certainly guilty of fitting the description myself.  According to Wikipedia, “a helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.”  Helicopter parentAnd it doesn’t typically just occur within our kid’s school, both with academics and activities; the helicopter syndrome extends to virtually every aspect of their lives, often from birth until college graduation; sometimes even beyond that in extreme cases.  As I look at my middle child who, just last week, began his first year of high school, I have been looking within and examining when and why I became that parent.  When did this phenomenom appear?  Why did we, my generation of suburban kids turned suburban moms and dads, become so overly protective of our children?

I think what made me really think about it started from a hysterical blog that I read about the difference in back-to-school in the 70s versus back-to-school in 2014.  So many of the author’s points rang true, and gave everyone a good laugh in the process.  This made me realize that there was also a huge difference in many other areas of life as we knew it then, and life as we know it now.  Let’s look at things then and things now.

1970s

In the summertime, our parents got up and went to work; my brother and I stayed home, by ourselves.  No sitter.  No daycare.  We were in late elementary and early middle school when both parents worked, and yes, we stayed home alone.  We got up, made our own breakfast, and watched cartoons.  Now, normally we had to stay inside during the day, not allowed to swim in our pool until an adult was home, unless we had permission to go to a specific friend’s house and mom knew which friend – not that she knew where their house was, or even what street; just somewhere in our neighborhood that we could get to on our bikes.  Sometimes we would get permission to ride our bikes to the bowling alley, which was several miles away, and we would have to cross busy Main Street in order to get there.  As long as we stayed together, we usually could go bowl as much as we wanted.  We rode our bikes everywhere.  We stayed outside pretty much all day when we had permission (it wasn’t a bazillion degrees outside like it is now), going in briefly for a snack, for lunch, or for a drink (when we wanted something besides water from the hose).  We played kickball at the playground with neighborhood kids – most were our friends, but some we didn’t know and still welcomed to play.  There were no cell phones, and we stayed out until dark, when the street lights came on.

During the school year, we either made our lunches and threw them in our metal lunchboxes with thermoses full of either drink or soup.  Sometimes we got a lunch ticket for a change of pace.  As early as first grade, I walked to school with my brother and our friends from the neighborhood.  I didn’t know of anybody’s allergies, if they had them.  I was allowed to take peanut butter sandwiches in my lunch, and swap with a friend if I didn’t like what I had that day.  My mom typically met my teacher at the beginning of the year Meet-the-Teacher night, and then wouldn’t see them again until an Open House, if then.  When I got home, my mom didn’t ask me if I had homework – I just did it.  I did homework, ate dinner, maybe watched TV for an hour or so, did dishes, and had a bedtime.  I studied spelling words by myself, or maybe had my brother drill me.  I brought home report cards, had it signed, and returned it, knowing that if I got a “C” that I would lose privileges; and if I had bad conduct marks (which I ALWAYS did, for talking too much, if you can believe THAT!) then I would lose privileges and/or get grounded.  We took standardized tests at school, but our entire academic curriculum didn’t center around them, as far as I can remember.

2000s

During the summertime now, parents line up sitters, nannies, daycares, and camps (all that have been background checked, of course) for their children to attend; and even young teens are typically NOT left home alone and to their own devices.  Most parents have enough activities lined up all summer long on either side of family vacations that there is little time left for their kids to get into mischief.  Sports camps, church camps, theater camps, music camps, you name it – they’re out there.  Rec centers have summer camps that involve weekly field trips and multiple trips to city pools and water parks.  When we were kids, my mom’s biggest summer expenses for us were shorts/tshirts/swimsuits, and groceries to keep us happy while she was at work.  Summertime now, for working parents, is expensive since there is not only the clothes and groceries aspect, but all of these damn camps, too, at usually $100+ each per week long session!  Our kids have cell phones, so they can always be in contact with US, along with their gaggles of friends who also have cell phones.  And we don’t just send them out the door to play, with a general idea of where they will be, and no idea of when they will be back.  No, no.  Our kids have arranged play dates, where the parents arrange the time and place, and sometimes they drop them off at a friend’s house but most of the time meet at an agreed-upon location so that they can drink coffee and visit while the kids play.  If the kids are older and want to “hang out” with a friend (they are now too cool to say “go play”), we want to know exactly where the kid lives (with an address and preferably phone number), what adults will be there (because no adults = no “hanging out”), and have a set time that they are to return.  They are sent out the door with a cell phone that is GPS-enabled, so in the event that they do not return at the specified time we can then track their location to a quarter of a mile.  Our kids have computers, or at the very least computer access to a shared device, and access to any and everything in the world online, so we set up Parental Safety filters and restrictions – because while we are cool parents, we know that they have something at their fingertips that we formerly did not possess:  the Internet.  We watch who they text, who they talk to, how they browse, websites they visit (or try to visit).

helicopter-mom

Now let’s talk about school.  Most parents now don’t just send their kids out the door in the mornings, off to school with a backpack, lunchbox, and a hug; not unless they live fairly close to their school and can be watched for a good portion of their walk.  I know that with my oldest, he started riding his bike to school in 2nd grade, but only due to the fact that the school was one street directly behind our house and it took him less than five minutes to get there.  My middle child walked to school for the first time in 4th grade, and I walked with him several times at the beginning of the year before turning him loose to walk less than two blocks to his school.  With both boys, I knew where the crossing guards were, I knew the folks who worked in the office at school, knew the principals of their schools, and kept in regular contact with their teachers throughout the year.  Unlike when I was a kid in the 70s, both of my boys were given planners at the beginning of each year; and it was in these that they would daily write in their homework assignments, and teachers could report any problems or conduct issues.  I, in turn, would check the planner after school, make sure that they sat down and did any homework before going to play or hang out with any friends, and then sign the planner before making sure that it was tucked back into the backpack for the next day.  After the planner stage of elementary school, they moved into a more digital age, and parents then have access to every class and every teacher online, where we can view homework assignments, test dates, and email teachers with questions or concerns.  Unlike when I was a kid and was just expected to do my homework (because NOT doing it and taking a zero was just not an option), today’s parents are now not only keeping up with their own stuff – home, work, bills, groceries, kid schedules, birthdays, anniversaries, family, holidays…the list goes on and on – we are now adding the role of school into the mix.  I remember, over the past three years of my son’s middle school time, repeatedly saying how much I hated middle school, yet here I was, feeling like I was doing it again!  It got very tiring to look up coursework every day, make sure that he did the work, make sure that he turned the work in, and then regularly check back for grades to make sure he was passing and get him extra help when he was not.  My oldest lived with his dad for a brief period during his junior year of high school, and was struggling in some subjects when he first moved there.  During this time, his dad sat down with him almost every night to make sure he did his work, and helped him prepare for tests and such.  In the course of the past three years while the middle son was in middle school and struggling at times, his dad would often ask me if I was sitting down with him every night to watch him and make sure he was doing his homework.  Now I know that I am a hoverer, but my answer most of the time was “no.”  I know that this is not a method that helps our kids prepare for life in college, so no, I will not sit with him and make sure that he is getting it done.  He is at the very beginning of high school, and he has many tools available to him to succeed:  a laptop that is required at his school, a website that his teachers all access and use to post notes, homework assignments, deadlines, grades, etc.  I can log on under his name and check these things at any time as well, so if he doesn’t turn something in and gets a zero, I will see it.  This is an opportunity for me to step back, land the helicopter for a bit, and let him step off the ledge himself.  He is already learning to take notes in class, and how to go and check for assignments for himself.  These four years are what will prepare him for college – because his mama will not be holding his hand and making sure he takes notes and turns in his term papers or studies for his midterms.

So from my childhood to now, when did this huge shift in parental involvement take place…and more importantly, why?  Of course, as technology has advanced, so have we who became parents during that time.  But, there are other things that happened when we were young that hopefully don’t happen as often now under the watchful eyes of all those helicopter parents.  You know.  Those things that nobody likes to talk about.  Kids were left alone a LOT back in the day.  Bad things happened.  Girls were molested by family friends, by family members; raped by classmates or trusted adults.  So were boys.  And as we grew up and dealt with things that happened to us or to our friends, we declared within our own minds that those things would NEVER happen to our children, come hell or high water.

We were a lot more grown up back then, or so we thought we were.  Kids would sneak around and steal their parents liquor and drink – I mean young kids, too.  I was probably in middle school when I first drank, while at a friend’s house and when her parents weren’t home.  I would sneak liquor into my Coke when babysitting.  I was twelve when I had my first cigarette, also while at a friend’s house, with smokes stolen from her parents.  I cannot, in my wildest imagination, picture my kids doing either of those things at the age of twelve!  I have always regretted that first cigarette, because it started a fifteen year habit that was very hard to kick; but I did it for the sake of my child.10629880_10152356893032309_3819170507177371515_n

Maybe it is just me, and maybe the helicopter parent wasn’t born from dysfunction.  Maybe, for some, it came from a childhood of neglect or very little parent involvement in their lives.  Who knows? I hope that my hyper-vigilance towards my children has hopefully paid off in more areas than done damage.  I feel confidant that neither of the boys grew up without being touched or molested by anyone, and our toddler girl should never know the psychological and physical damage from that either.  I know that the oldest toyed with smoking for a while, but am grateful that he put it down and walked away from it.  And I know that he did some teenage drinking, but I am forever thankful that he was at least smart enough to not drive and hurt himself or anyone else.  It is so scary to think about all of the things that our kids have access to out there, and it is so hard to NOT be a helicopter parent.  If we can get them through childhood and adolescence relatively unscathed, somewhat educated, responsible and respectful, and a decent human being…then we have done our jobs and can call it a success.  It’s hard to let go and let them fall, screw up, and figure things out on their own.

Two of my babies visiting me <3
Two of my babies visiting me ❤

Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to go check for assignments online…

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Her Head is Going to Spin Around!!

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (1/12/12):

Do you ever feel, as a parent, that everything you do is wrong?  I mean, I’ve had these moments over and over during the course of the past 20+ years (oh my God I’ve been a parent for over twenty years!), but I don’t remember feeling it quite the way I am this go-around.

When Harrison was first born, we bragged that she was the perfect baby – eating, burping, sleeping, pooping all when she was supposed to, or so we thought.  After about two or three weeks, however, her sleeping became erratic.  Her eating became episodes of vomiting that just seemed to get worse and worse.  Her pooping became less and less, and at times, non-existent.  I had been so confident that it would all come back to me, no problem.  I was cocky enough to believe that I was “older and wiser” and whatever this baby threw at me, “I got this.”  HA!  She currently has my arm twisted behind my back, and I am quickly being brought to my knees, about to cry “Uncle!”

As her eating/spitting-up issue has gotten worse, I still maintained my history that walked me through this not once, but twice.  Both boys had reflux, accompanied by projectile vomiting.  I remember, all those years ago, that friends and family alike called Nicholas “the vomit king”, affectionately, of course.  When Noah came along many years later, I was well prepared when he followed in his brother’s footsteps as heir to the vomit king’s throne – only his was worse.  Back then, pediatricians didn’t put them on medications, but rather referred us out to pediatric GI doctors at the children’s hospital; those doctors, in turn, would run tests, perform upper GI series (which was an awful ordeal in and of itself), and threaten surgery for conditions that continued to get worse.  I tried everything with the boys, thinking that the next thing would help somehow and give these sweet babies a tiny bit of relief.  Nicholas ultimately went on fresh goat’s milk around ten months old, and I had to drive an hour to a farm to buy it.  Noah nursed almost exclusively, but because he was a preemie, had to supplement with formula – and we tried so many different ones.  He ended up going on cow’s milk at around ten months old (to supplement breast milk), and his condition got remarkably better as well.  It was so bizarre that both boys were preemies, both were born five weeks early, and both had terrible reflux conditions.

So now here I am, all these years later, with a new baby girl that seemingly has the same awful condition that her older brothers had.  We are trying everything and nothing seems to be bringing relief to her.  It feels like everything we are doing isn’t working or is just plain wrong.  She is on her sixth – yes, SIXTH – formula, and vomiting just as much as ever.  She tried Zantac, but threw it up.  She is on Prevacid, and we have to time her meds not near eating time, or it will get spit up as well.
We bought her a special thing to lay in – The Nap Nanny – in hopes that it will put her in a position that will alleviate the heartburn and allow her to nap without spitting up so much and waking herself up.  I feel like everything I do is wrong, and I don’t remember ever feeling like this before.  It is a horrible, helpless feeling to hold a screaming baby, knowing she is in pain and being powerless to make it better.  She had gotten to the point where she was spitting up blood, so back to the doctor we went, where we were switched to our current formula and medication regimen.  We’re tired mommies, and we know that she is just exhausted every day from constant bouts of heartburn.

The other day, after she had been screaming for a particularly long time, I had to put her in her swing and sit down, head in my hands.  I sat and cried, talking out loud to both Harrison and God, asking what I could do to make her feel better.  It wasn’t a good afternoon.  For the first time since she was born, I felt totally and completely inept and over my head.  Just when we think that we’ve tried everything, we somehow come up with something else to try, waiting to see if it will be the magic trick that will ease her pain and bring us back to some sense of normalcy.  Right now, our days and nights are managed by a tiny, eleven-pound baby girl who needs us every moment that she is awake.  I get frustrated and irritable because the house is a wreck or because the laundry never gets caught up, but I have to stop and remind myself that she is tiny and defenseless, and that this is not a permanent condition.  I’m trying to enjoy the snuggling that at times, for a few quiet moments, makes her feel better and brings her some rest.  I know that there will come a day when I will want to hug on her and she will not be interested any longer.  I will want to hold her hand and she will pull away.  So for now, I will hold her when she needs holding and rock her to sleep so she won’t cry.  I may be flubbing up everything else, but I will be able to one day tell her that I did the best mommying that I could when she was new.

Nighttime Musings from the Nursery Rocker

Tonight I am sad.

It’s after midnight, the baby and the boy are asleep.  The wife is asleep.  I should be asleep.  But my mind won’t shut down, thinking about some of the awful things going on today in our country.

Earlier, around 10 PM, I went into the nursery for my nightly position in the rocker with the baby.  Erikka brought me a cup of coffee, and I settled in, rocking our sweet baby girl and reading status updates from Facebook on my phone.  Now, I am sad because of the news today that the Dublin Dr. Pepper plant is shutting down and no longer making the beverage of the gods, but I digress.  This is not the sadness that is currently keeping me from slumber.  What really got to me was another day of political news stories from the current stream of Republican candidate hopefuls for this year’s presidential election.  Almost all of the prospects are a frightening thought for families like mine, and the rights and privileges that we fight so hard to secure for ourselves.

Our current governor, Rick Perry (R), is sadly continuing his campaigning, even after coming in miserably low in recent state primaries.  I suppose that his crowning achievement in his campaign would be his “Strong” political ad video, where he spoke his obvious disdain for gays/lesbians now being allowed to serve in the military, and declared that our current president has waged a war on religion.  I had no idea!  The thought of this man becoming even mildly close to the White House, even as a visitor, makes me nauseous.  The only downside to him not getting the candidacy is the fact that he will come back to Texas and continue his horribly long reign as governor here.

Then there is Mitt Romney, the front runner and former governor of Massachusetts, is probably the least conservative of the bunch.  At first I thought that he might be alright, as he made a comment once (early on) that he didn’t have a problem with same-sex marriage; he has since said that he thinks that it should go back to the individual states.  He has also said that he would prohibit future marriages – and of course there will be no federal recognition – but that each state could recognize those marriages that have already taken place.  Holy shit, really?  Did nobody learn ANYTHING from Prop 8 in California?  Really – going back to class grades basically, a version of separate-but-equal??  What year is this?

There is also a real piece of work, Rick Santorum.  He is a former senator from Pennsylvania, and he is a douchebag.  Some of the things that have come out of his mouth have left me sitting there thinking, “No way.  Did he REALLY just say that?”  He is vehemently opposed to abortion for any reason (as is Rick Perry), even though his own wife has had an abortion because her health was at risk.  HYP-O-CRITE.  He wants the United States to be a Christian nation – HIS definition of Christian – and has no regard for any other religions or beliefs.  Oh, and Santorum’s wife, who asks “the holy spirit to speak through her husband,” was shacked up with an abortion doctor before leaving him to be with brother Rick.  Nice, huh?  And of course, he hates the gays.  He says that if HE were president, he would not only outlaw same sex marriage, but he would invalidate all of those marriages that have already taken place – like MINE.  Them are fighting words Mr. Santorum.  IF that were to happen, which I don’t believe that our country is stupid enough to allow to happen, then he would have a hell of a lot of homos at the White House doorstep waving not only rainbow flags and signs, but lots of legal marriage licenses.  I don’t think it would be pretty.  I mean, really Rick – you seriously want to take the country backwards, don’t you?  This is not progress.  He also has said that it is better for a kid to have a dad in prison than to have two dads or two moms.  Every time he utters another stupid remark, he resembles Hitler more and more to me.

There’s also Ron Paul, a U.S. State Rep from Texas, who seems like a little weasel to look at him.  I don’t know much about his positions, because I don’t pay that much attention to him.  I have had a couple of people tell me that I should vote for him, to which I just keep my mouth shut.  Really?  Anybody who would tell me to vote for any of these bigoted morons, who are hell-bent on taking away my rights and those of MY family, is somebody who really doesn’t have a clue.

And there is Newt Gingrich.  Former Speaker of the House, this asshat is VERY anti-gay anything, despite having a sister who is a married lesbian and director at the Human Rights Campaign (big gay rights organization, FYI).  He didn’t attend his sister’s wedding, but he sent a gift – kind of contradicting your own stance there, Newton.  Fortunately, his sister Candace has said that she will endorse President Obama in the upcoming 2012 election.  HA!  That’s awesome!  And not to mention (although I AM going to mention it), he-who-is-so-anti-gay-marriage has been married (and divorced) multiple times.  But it’s okay, because he was married and unfaithful to someone of the OPPOSITE sex.  This moron is racist, making cracks about African-Americans and food stamps.  He has suggested having poor students in public schools doing the janitorial work and cut those jobs.  He has also stated that a kid would be better off as an orphan than have two mommies.  Yes.

And this is why I am sad.

As I sat in our beautiful nursery, rocking our baby who was created with such thought and love, I scrolled through news articles and saw where Newt Gingrich had made that statement.  A child would be better off as an orphan than to have two mommies.  It actually made me cry.  The thought of my sweet baby girl, alone and without us or anyone else to care for her broke my heart.  No child is better off as an orphan…EVER.  The thought of any of these horrible men becoming remotely close to a position of leadership in this country is scary for folks like me, like us.  Then there is also the ignorant pope, half a world away, making statements this week that gay marriage is a “threat to the future of humanity.”  Oh dear God.  A lot of people don’t have the worries and fears that we do, because they can go and get married and/or divorced as many times as they want to without question or consequence.  The gay/lesbian community have to fight, march, and protest for these rights, so it’s scary to think that someone might take over as leadership and take them away because of their own personal agendas and prejudices.  I know that I have family, and probably several friends on Facebook (and in real life), who will vote Republican ticket.  I just hope that they will really look closely at their candidate’s positions on all of the issues before making the decision to cast their vote.  I know that many folks just vote, straight ticket, solely on the fact that there is a (D) or (R) behind their name.   I hope and pray that the American people will choose very wisely this election season – every vote and every choice will matter.

And I’m still pretty sad over the whole Dr. Pepper thing, too.