The term “helicopter parent” tends to carry a negative connotation. Images of crazed mothers swooping in to micromanage every event in their children’s lives come to mind. They are nosy, domineering, and frankly annoying to teachers and free-range parents on the opposite end of the parenting spectrum.
Yet, they are prevalent in today’s society, and some, myself included, wear the badge with pride. Yes, I am a self-proclaimed helicopter mom, mostly because I don’t know any other way to be.
Part of me thinks my helicopter parent hat gradually appeared over time as my kids grew into school-age. Last year when my eldest entered kindergarten and I appeared at my son’s school, the flashing lights of super-involved control freak mom really started blinking. At least this was when it first became so apparent to me that I was a member of the club—as I found myself inventing reasons to contact his teacher, to grasp on to to any part of his long eight-hour day without me. I felt incredibly lost being so apart from my son for the first time, having so little control over his life Monday to Friday. I then realized for the first time just how much of a helicopter mom I am.
But more than likely, I was always on the roster, and everyone else around me knew it. No one who has seen me as a mother would ever categorize me as laid-back or free-range. I’ve been on the far other end of the spectrum since the day my first child was born. From the first bath straight on through to his first-grade life, I’ve been there—every second of every minute of every day—inspecting every boo-boo; analyzing every tear that falls; assessing every meal that wasn’t completely eaten; leaving detailed, multi-page sets of directions for anyone who had him in their care, in outline form, categorized by time of day and topic, such as food or bedtime or activities. And I’m micromanaging the lives of his younger brother and sister the same way.
I’m everywhere. I am up their butts. I am in their business. The first-grader has a journal, and you’re damn right I read every page. I clean their rooms and poke around in all the drawers and all the corners. There are no secrets from Mommy. Not getting along with a kid in school? I know about it. I deal with it. I’m involved. I know their friends. I know the parents of their friends. I know their teachers. I know the principal. I’m room mom, PTA volunteer, and attend every practice, every game, and every school performance.
There’s nothing that goes on that I don’t know about—so far. I know that my role as helicopter mom will become more challenging as they grow up, and I will have to work harder at my hovering and sticking my nose in their business. But I will. I will persevere in maintaining my position up on the hill of knowledge about my kids’ lives.
Do I believe in letting them figure things out for themselves? Yes. Are they allowed to make their own choices? Of course. What puts me squarely into helicopter mom status is that I know what their choices are. Even if I am behind the scenes on occasion and letting them take center stage at crossroads in their lives, the key is that I am right there, a couple feet away, behind the curtain, ready to catch them if they fall, ready to nudge them along if they are scared.
I know that helicopter moms can be overbearing and too involved. I know that they can stifle a child’s development by solving problems for him or her. And we helicopter moms really don’t believe in giving our kids a whole lot (if any) privacy. If you want to rip me apart for reading my kid’s diary, go ahead. I am still going to. He’s 7, so right now he writes about Minecraft, Pokémon, and sometimes an argument he had with a friend. There’s nothing in his journal that he hasn’t already told me about.
But when they are teenagers, will I change? Will I respect their privacy? Probably not. The thing is, I remember being a teenager. I remember crying out for help, but no one heard me because I had written it down in a private diary—that I didn’t want to wake up the next day, that I didn’t want to live anymore. Eventually, someone noticed. Someone thankfully read it or saw it or saw me, and picked me up, before it was too late.
I believe my job is to hear them cry for help, and to know what they need, and to pick them up before it is too late. I don’t anticipate slacking on my helicopter mom duties as they grow up; if anything, I imagine they’ll intensify. My job, as Mom, is to keep them safe. If I have to fly over their teenage heads with a zoom lens peering into their lives, well, that’s just what I am going to do.