I first heard the term helicopter parenting from my sister. Maybe about a year ago. I know! I’m a little behind the times. So was she. She was accused of being that type of parent by someone close to us. She and I both were at a loss with the term, and analyzed to DEATH whether she was or wasn’t one right after that accusation occurred, but now, I hear about it all the time.
And, I’m afraid I could be one.
I tend to hover over a lot of things my kids do. Except when I’m on the computer. And, then I just want them to entertain themselves for that 2 hour time slot everyday. In general, I don’t think helicopter parenting is that bad. I mean, it can be. I guess recent studies have shown it can lead to depression and incompetence. No biggie, right? Don’t get me wrong. Look at that tiger mom lady. Her kids will be screwed up for sure. Just kidding, I haven’t even read her book…just saw her on the Today show. So, I’m not one to judge. But, lately, I have been trying everyday to let my 6 year old find some independence because my tendency is to just control, control, control. I have to make a concentrated effort to let go.
So, for Christmas, she got an alarm clock. It was my way of letting go and letting her wake up a little before I go in there and starting barking demands at her to get ready. She is not a morning person. In some ways, I’m still a helicopter parent when it comes to the alarm clock, though. I make sure she has set it every night, therefore not really letting her be in charge of her own destiny. Baby steps right?
But, this morning, I went in at 7:04. Her alarm was set for 6:53. I asked her if it went off. “Yes.” she responds sleepily. “Did you turn it off?”. “Yes” she says, still not moving. So we rushed around and got ready as usual. It was a glimpse into the teenage years, for sure.
Sometimes I think my parents were major helicopter parents, but then other times, I think not. I remember a LOT of mishaps happening when they weren’t around. Like, broken things. I remember vacations they took without us when we were really young. (Like the time I ran the minivan into a telephone pole the day my Mom was on the price is right.) I remember at least one crazy thing happening when they didn’t remind us about setting our alarm clocks for the right time. For example:
It was somewhere around 1990 at 5:30 am where this story begins. I was 13ish. My sister was 11ish. The details are a little fuzzy. But, what transpired that morning will stay in my mind forever.
We shared a room. So when our alarm went off we thought it was time to get up. In actuality, it was an hour earlier than we normally get up. I’m sure there was some talking and during that conversation, we decided we needed to go turn on the TV and watch the weather. We were so grown up. We had to know what to wear, of course. Middle school is a time where what you wear to school is pretty much all there is.
The house is dark. Why this didn’t make us think things were weird to begin with, I’ll never know. Our parents were still asleep. Maybe we just thought we were being good kids by taking the initiative to get ready early on our own? Whatever the case, we walk down the hall, through the dining room, and into the living room.
We turn on the TV.
What happens next is something that is burned into my brain forever. As the TV is warming up (like those old tube televisions used to) suddenly, there is a hideous monster face on T.V. Picture something out of any horror movie, mixed with Medusa, with bugs or nasty things coming out of it’s mouth. I don’t remember any sound with this hideous image, but I remember seeing it and being terrified. We look at each other and say nothing. All we can do is scream.
At some point, we take off. Still screaming. Imagine it. Two tween girls screaming at the top of their lungs, when you are dead asleep, and running down the hall. My parents had to have been terrified. We burst into their room, crying, and hysterical. The whole house was awake now. My parents were probably thinking, “what the hell!?”, and “Who severed a limb? or is being murdered?” It sounds funny, but believe me. It wasn’t.
As the words came tumbling out in abbreviated sentences…. “We saw something scary! It was hideous. TV. Things coming out of it’s mouth. Devil. Crazy Hair.” our parents calmed us down. I remember following them back into the living room and being petrified to see it again. What was on TV? The morning news.
“But, I swear!! It was horrible!” We were trying to convince them that what we had seen was really there. As a 35 year old woman, to this day, my sister and I know that it was.
At some point, they had to believe us. We were terrified. My Mom says something to my Dad about it being Friday the 13th (although I’m not even sure THAT was true) and decides the best plan of action is to call the TV station. Yep. Insert helicopter parenting. I remember standing there while she did it.
“My daughters saw something on the TV that scared them. Are you running any scary programs?”
“Are you sure? I know it’s Friday the 13th”.
“They are terrified by something they saw.”
“OK. Thank you very much.”
At this point, my parents must have told us to go back to bed because it was 5:30 am. I remember she told us that the person on the other line swore to her that nothing out of the ordinary was shown on TV.
I promise you, though. It happened.
And, I think, sometimes that some of the best memories are made by kids when their parents aren’t sitting over their shoulder whispering every move they should make, and setting their alarm clocks for them. Sure, some terrifying things might happen in the process. But, it’s what bonds siblings together, right? I know my sister and I will NEVER forget that morning when we saw that hideous creature.
So, let your children fend for themselves once in a while. A little fear can go a long way.