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The Suburbanite
  • Adventures in Parenting: Hovering my way back to the helipad

  • I’ve never been a big fan of opening my mail. In my household, the mail doesn’t usually bring glad tidings. It’s mostly bills, bills and more bills. Occasionally, the bills are supplemented with a party invitation, a holiday card or something else equally joyful. But most of the time, as I stand in the driveway sifting through the envelopes, I am on edge.

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  • I’ve never been a big fan of opening my mail. In my household, the mail doesn’t usually bring glad tidings. It’s mostly bills, bills and more bills. Occasionally, the bills are supplemented with a party invitation, a holiday card or something else equally joyful. But most of the time, as I stand in the driveway sifting through the envelopes, I am on edge.
    Today was no exception when I found a letter from my daughter Maggie’s school. It was her interim report. Maggie is usually an excellent student, so I wasn’t feeling much trepidation about opening this particular missive. It was good ... kind of: straight A’s, with the exception of math: a barely passing grade.
    Arrrrgggghhh!
    It’s not what I was expecting and certainly was not the norm for Maggie. While I am not happy, I do know she can pull up the grade by turning in missing assignments, getting tutored and working very hard.
    The thing that bugged me about the surprise interim grade was this: I relinquished my role as “helicopter parent” about Maggie’s academics at the beginning of her school year. I admit I previously hovered around her school life like a delusional stalker. I am in helicopter parent recovery from many poor habits associated with the role, including obsessively checking her grades, giving pep talks about how to perform better and continually reminding her of her deadlines, just to name a few.
    When she started 5th grade, I decided that misguided phase of my parenting was over. Maggie is older now and has so many parts of her life that don’t include me. She must take responsibility for all of them, within reason. I assist her when necessary, but previously I was doing her more harm than good by helicoptering around her every move.
    I felt good about my parenting shift, at least with regard to Maggie’s academics. Truthfully, I was also tired of doing it. It’s exhausting trying to manage my own life and micromanage hers. Until I saw the interim. I felt equally responsible for her poor grade, which is ridiculous. But, once a helicopter parent, always a helicopter parent, I suppose. I wondered why she was missing so many assignments and how she was so clueless about all of it.
    Maybe if I had checked the school’s online grade site nightly, maybe I should have emailed her math teacher every week, maybe I was a really crappy mom. How could I have been so clueless about what was happening with my daughter? First it’s struggling in math without me knowing, and then what in the future? Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to our children. I can’t relinquish control, or at least knowledge, of what is happening in the other areas of her life if these are the results. Right?
    Page 2 of 2 - Such thoughts clued me in to the fact I am not completely in recovery as far as my helicopter parenting. My need for control over Maggie’s world signals something very off with me.
    First, I lack trust that the concept of “letting her fail and take the consequences” is a natural, healthy way to imbue responsibility.
    Second, I wonder if I have a need for Maggie to succeed where I feel I have failed in my life. My friend Amy recently suggested helicopter parenting might be a reaction against how many in our generation were raised. Both parents were working and children were “latchkey” kids: home alone after school, raising themselves. Our parents might not have known if we had homework, let alone if we ever did it. That is, until the report card came home months later.
    We feel if we hover and are “super” parents, our children’s lives will have better outcomes than ours have in some areas. Of course, Maggie is her own person and her successes/failures belong entirely to her. She is not a mini-Jennie, and I don’t get a “do-over” through her to succeed where I previously have failed.
    Finally, if I continue in the role of helicopter mom, I will rob Maggie of her ability to flex her self-reliance muscles. By hovering, I am showing Maggie I don’t believe she is competent and worthy. Making her feel this way is only a recipe for trouble down the road.
    Sigh. I wish I were as far along in my recovery as I believed I was before the interim report arrived. Like I said before, opening mail has never been my favorite activity because of the news it usually brings with it. This time, however, it seems the news was essential to my growth as a parent. A non-hovering one.

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