Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Helicopter Parent

Yesterday someone I went to high school with who is now a college professor updated her status on facebook with -

"Dear helicopter parents of the 1990s: thanks so much for making college teaching harder. Explaining there are no trophies for showing up and that rules apply to everyone makes for a long, tedious day."

I was confused because I had no freaking clue what a helicopter parent was.  No clue.  So being the inquisitive, google savvy person that I am, I did a google search of the term and learned that a helicopter parent is one that is overly involved in their children's lives to the point that they smother the child by their "hovering" much like a helicopter hovers.

These parents are the ones that never let their children out of their sight to play outside because they might get hurt or abducted.  Jungle gyms and swing sets can be too dangerous and so they are banned from the playground.  If a teacher grades the child's work too harshly the parent is at the school to confront them.

 As the children get older these parents pick colleges, majors, fill out applications, etc for these children.  Parents have even been known to negotiate salaries for their adult children getting their first jobs.  

This kind of over involvement cripples the child making it almost impossible to make any decisions in their lives.  They have no respect for authority figures and they grow up feeling entitled.  Shouldn't they get extra credit just for showing up to class?  Those deadlines don't really apply to them,  do they?  

 I can understand why this would drive college professors and employers crazy.

My heart sank when I read all those things because I came to a very disturbing realization.  

 Oh no!  That's me!!  I'm a helicopter parent! 

Now I have the correct terminology for something I have been for years.  And college professors HATE me.  Now I understand why The Boy's college tried (notice I said "tried") to refuse to talk to me last summer when I was doing whatever I could to get him accepted last minute into the college he decided he wanted to go to. (I thought he wanted to go to a Junior college near home for a year or two).  He changed his mind. 

 Now I know why the college wouldn't let any parents within a 20 mile radius when it was time for the student's to register for fall classes at orientation. 

 Now I know why after a brief intro meeting the first morning of orientation, the took the students in one direction and put all the parents in a big bus and sent us on a "tour".

My one saving point is that I didn't become a helicopter parent willingly.  Really, I didn't.  It was a necessity brought on by the fact The Boy has Asperger's.  I did encourage The Boy to become independent and do things on his own.  I would push, but I would always be nearby.  In part because if I wasn't nearby The Boy would refuse to participate in birthday parties, sports, playing outside, swimming etc.  

Believe me, I would rather NOT know what the top of the tunnel in the germ filled playground at McDonald's or the inside of the ball pit at Chuck E Cheeses is like.  Fact is if I didn't agree to go up in them, The Boy never would have either.  And bribery doesn't work.  I tried.

It is a fine line for parents with children with special needs to walk.  On the one hand we want our children to become independent, but on the way they do need us more than other children.  Does that really make me fall into the helicopter parent definition?  I hope not.  I took this survey online to find out if I fit the definition of helicopter parent (yes, I'm that paranoid) and the results were that I have found a balance.  

Whew!  What a relief!  To think for a second I might be one of THOSE! 

This helicopter parent phenomena really explains a lot though.  Now I know why the outside park down the street doesn't have real grass.  It has this fake squishy stuff that looks like grass but has cushioning for falls so no little tyke gets bruised or scraped up.  What was our parents thinking when they made us climb on jungle gyms with packed dirt or gravel down below?  Or concrete!   

The Murph and I were in the park a while back and went over to the playground to check out all the fancy play stuff.  A kid's dream world.  And all we had was plain silver bars to climb on when we were kids.  If you fell off one you fell on dirt and broke your arm.  Did our parents just not love us enough?

Now I realize this is the perfect example of a playground designed by our generation, the helicopter parents to help preserve and protect and smother and cripple the next generation, our kids.

Don't get me wrong, the playground is AWESOME!  I wish I had that as a kid.  I feel deprived!  I can't say I turned out ok.  I guess I did though.  My mother never had to do any of my homework for me and she didn't negotiate my salary in my first job out of college (although I sure wish somebody would have) and I 'm certainly not negotiating The Boy's salary when he gets out of college.  

His dad will have to do that.

No comments:

Post a Comment