Monday, January 11, 2010

Helicopter Parents - You Know Who You Are!

There were helicopters over our house last night (or should I say this morning) at freaking 3am! Apparently some jerk drunk thought it was a bright idea to go joy riding with a pipe bomb in his car (amazing how a little liquor will bring out the stupid in folks!). So for three very long hours, I listened to helicopters circling overhead, a combo of police choppers and the media, trying to get a bird's eye view if anyone blew themselves to hell and back.

The helicopters were looking down on us. A giant, airborne big brother following our every move. And no matter where I went in the house, the sound followed me. I got a firsthand feel of what it would be like to have a parent who was one of those helicopter parents. Haven't heard that phrase? It's the new catch phrase of the millennium, "helicopter parents." For those who don't know, and until recently I didn't, helicopter parents are defined (and maligned) as the parents who constantly hover over their children (both literally and figuratively) controlling them, directing them, over scheduling them). Two camps have shot up, those in support of helicopter-ing and those who advocate the slow parenting movement - termed to mimic the slow food movement. Give me a break -comparing how to raise my kid to how you cook beef roast! I hate that kind of parenting lunacy!

This debate got started good and ugly when this woman - Google World's Worst Mother and her name will come up - got the fine idea to put her nine year old son on a NYC subway by himself with enough money for his fare and change to use a payphone (do those still exist?) if things got dicey. She said it was an experiment, something he wanted to do, and a way to point out how today's parents are overprotective of their kids. "See, he made it home in one piece..." Honestly, I bet the woman did it to reinvigorate her writing career…and it worked! She got an op ed piece in the NY Times, a book and a ridiculous amount of free publicity, not to mention becoming the founding member of the anti-helicopter parent movement. (Maybe I’ll toss my children into the monkey cage at the zoo to prove that apes are just as nurturing as human mothers. Wonder what that will get me other than time in jail on a child endangerment rap.)

And of course, for every action there is a reaction, helicopter parents and the slow cookers have rules to live by. (If I had to put myself on one side or the other, I guess I'd have blades stapled to my butt, however I refuse to believe that parenting is that black or white). Slow cookers even have a parenting bibles of sorts (kinda like the old and new testament) called The Power of Slow: Finding Balance and Fulfillment Beyond the Cult of Speed, and, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting. My oh my...

Yes, kids should be given opportunities to test themselves, to learn responsibility and to try out new things without mom and dad constantly hovering overhead. But to allow them to do so without recognizing, acknowledging and protecting them from the obvious dangers of the world is wholly irresponsible. Yes, we played all day in the streets when we were kids growing up and our parents didn't have to slap GSP tracking systems on us to keep us safe. But it was a different time and even then horrible, bad things happened (we just didn't hear about as much). Both extremes stink as ways to raise your kids - the hovering parents always in the mix and the slow cookers just sitting back and letting their kids be all the time to the point of moss growing behind their ears. If I sit back and let my kids be, they would burrow into the sofa watching tv and eating sweets 24/7. What do they say, an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays there???? Kids need to be motivated, challenged and protected along with being given downtime and freedom. That's the problem with movements. They are generally followed in absolutes - it's less confusing that way. It's a doctrine to follow - tell me what to do to be a perfect parent - how easy is that? (If a book could really do that, I’d have it on my shelf). Unfortunately, parenting, just like most things, cannot be cooked down to a simple sauce like a balsamic vinegar reduction. Parenting takes thought, the ability to switch gears on a dime and the willingness to screw up, admit it and make things right. My grandmothers would bust a corset if I started talking to them about hovering and slow parenting. Hey, maybe I'll start the common sense parenting movement which demands that its followers think about what they're doing when they're raising their kids. Oh, but that would be another one of those movements I hate...

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