By Leza Warkentin
From the Hovercraft
Sometimes I wonder if I’m over-thinking this whole parenting gig. I quite often find myself in the office of our beloved primary director, meeting her eyes earnestly and asking if my kids really are ok. She respectfully changes her mental hat from supervisor and friend to compassionate school principal. We generally chat around in circles until I come to the conclusion once again that the axe-murderer gene is still recessive, and I go away feeling better (for a while). I always imagine her sitting in her chair with a bemused expression for a few minutes after I leave.
Have you ever heard of the term “helicopter parent”? Wikipedia defines it as “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.”
I would say “pays extremely close attention” is polite for “is stifling and overprotective” but otherwise it’s a pretty apt description. When I read it, I became incapable of taking in oxygen for several seconds while I gazed into the Wikipedia mirror.
I would, however, add that in my professional experience, helicopter parents are generally unaware and/or unapologetic of their hovering status. Perhaps I could be more adequately termed “hovercraft parent” or “heli-lite momma”, because I am neither unaware nor unapologetic in any possible sense. While I have an overpowering need to know why my child needs to stay in at recess, I pretty much know that all my digging around is probably a Bit Much, and there is well-deserved water-cooler humor that could be had at my expense (thank goodness for that whole teacher ethics thing).
I try to channel the voice of one of my good friends, who always tells me that she lets her kids figure out most of this stuff for themselves and learn through these experiences. So I always think to myself (in this cool sort of Southern accent), “Honey! Just leave it BE this one time. You can do this, mama!”
But then this other, crazier, higher-pitched voice chimes in and I know I’m probably going to ask the music teacher if he knows that a certain child told my daughter she looked puffy in her new pink vest and now she won’t wear it (I know, heart-breaking, right? Right? Well, maybe you had to be there).
Plus, being an early childhood teacher, I’m aware that children are not usually born understanding the nuances of social interaction, so finding the balance between independent learning and swooping in like a falcon on speed when someone keeps eating my kid’s dessert without permission… well it’s been a challenge, let’s just say. So how do I manage without having restraining orders laid against me (knock on wood)?
I can tell you that what has taken me from 60 to 0 in the shortest amount of time is just talking to my kids and realizing that they have a lot of smarts and can handle a lot more than I sometimes (maybe ever) give them credit for (pretty sure it’s genetic). Ahem. It’s also possible that my principal had already mentioned that in one of our heart-to-hearts.
Teacher friends, are you dealing with helicopter, hovercraft or heli-lite parents (besides me)? Take some comfort from the fact that these are the same parents who are going to know exactly what an amazing job you do (for the simple reason that they are always hanging around).
They will tell every other parent in the room how much their child’s teacher really, truly listens. They will never miss a meeting, they will always be there at every performance and event and they will cheer the loudest.
Then, at year’s end, you will be rewarded with a smiling, gratifyingly tearful set of hovering parents and you will know that a) it’s over and b) it was worth it. I’m almost certain.