Helicopter Parenting Takes An Emotional Toll On Parents Too

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
RapidEye / iStock

On the first day of summer basketball camp for my 10-year-old, as I was completing the required forms, I noticed I was being forced to sign and agree to the following: “A parent or legal guardian is required to pick up their child every day.”

We live less than a mile from the small college campus where the camp is held, and I had planned on my son riding his bike to and from camp. There are no busy roads on his route, only quiet neighborhood streets which lead directly to the college campus where the camp is held. “My son will be riding his bike to and from camp,” I confidently announced to the camp director, to which he replied, “I’m sorry but we cannot allow him to just leave here when camp is over. He must have a parent sign him out each day.”


And that my friends, is why we have a country full of stressed-out mothers and overwhelmed fathers who are all bone-tired and suffering from eye-stinging exhaustion. It’s from all the unattainable and unrealistic pressures of modern parenting, and why I would bet the farm that the great majority of us just want to tell society (and this basketball camp director) to go fuck right off. Right off.

Can we please, please, please start giving our kids some damn freedom, independence, and untie them from the constraints of our obsessive supervision and helicoptering? Here’s an absurd idea: Perhaps if we started to actually do that, our colleges wouldn’t be full of kids who need to take adulting classes and are calling their moms every time they need to make a decision, or have a cold, or need to have a meeting with their professor.

But more than the serious and debilitating effects that all this helicopter and “be there every second of every day for your kids” type of parenting is doing to our children, is what it’s doing to us parents. We are all exhausted. Done. Toast. We are trying to be all things to all people at all times, and I don’t just mean the people we live with and work for.

I mean all the people.

Who is this person at basketball camp who is insisting that a parent must be the one to pick up my child? As a matter of fact, who are all the people in and around our community insisting on all the things we need and must do for our children? Hey village, you’re overstepping your bounds just a little, okay? I get to make the choices that are best for my child, based upon his individual capabilities.

I’ve actually been told by my children’s school that they are not allowed to walk home without an adult escorting them. Can you imagine a generation or two ago a school having the power to dictate exactly how and with whom my children would be allowed to walk home? It wasn’t so long ago (maybe 1985) that when school was out, we just uh, walked out and walked home. And then we walked or rode a city bus to the mall or movies with our friends, with no cellphones and nobody approaching us asking if we had an adult with us or telling us we needed one. Or calling the police and claiming childhood neglect because there was no adult with us at the neighborhood park.

How are two-working-parent families actually able to manage all this helicoptering nonsense? Those are the parents I feel the worst for — the ones who are constantly put into precarious situations like the one I was put in at camp — but who don’t have the luxury of working from home or the flexibility in their jobs to be able to facilitate all the nonsense that is being asked of them. I imagine they are stretched excruciatingly thin from the pressures their peers and society are putting on them about how their constant presence in their kids’ lives is the end-all, be-all of childrearing.

Because folks, it absolutely is not.

And if you’ve had enough of the bullshit and really desire to raise independent kids, then speak up when you’re in situations like the one I was in. I regret that I didn’t say something at basketball camp. And I regret all the times I felt like a shitty mom because I couldn’t be there, and how I was made to feel inadequate and that my kid would suffer for it.

I regret not speaking up when people questioned my kids’ safety with irrational and ridiculous situations that “could” happen if I was not there 100% of the time. I regret not speaking up to other parents of teenagers when I felt that their overparenting during the college process was making us all look bad and doing nothing for the growth of their children — rather it was hindering them.

And I regret not standing up and saying something about this bullshit on behalf of the working mothers I know. The ones who are busting their asses at work to literally feed their kids, and then are told their kids cannot do this or that because some school or camp or extracurricular activity director said they absolutely must have parental supervision available at all times.

I’m done watching my fellow parents wilt under the hot gaze of judgmental parents, and from now on, I plan on saying something. Like Towanda in Fried Green Tomatoes, I am older now (and I do have more car insurance), and you can take your mandatory “I have to be there, or my kid cannot participate,” and all your “watch you kid or else” fuckery and you can shove it right up your helicopter arse. I will suffer no longer, and neither will my peers.

Moms, let’s take a stand together and begin to really start the end of this helicopter parent movement. Because if we don’t, in the end it won’t just be the kids who will be hurt, it will be us too. And I for one, don’t want to look back and have regrets about motherhood. I want to actually enjoy it. And I want my kid to ride his damn bike home from camp.

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