The term “helicopter mom” became part of the 21st century lexicon while my kids were still young. It is this generation’s term for the overprotective parent. I never considered myself a helicopter mom but in hindsight, I most likely was.
I couldn’t help but be an advocate for these small helpless children. It didn’t seem right to me to throw them into this cruel and unpredictable world without standing up for them and protecting them in any way that I could. If I saw an injustice anywhere, I stepped up. If I thought something was being handled incorrectly, I spoke up. After all, I felt, children needed a voice and I was all too willing to be one for my two.
So I asked the hard questions. Friend’s mom “Can your son come to my son’s birthday sleepover?” Me “Sure, but first can you tell me what kind of video games you have, what TV shows can they watch and are there any guns in the house?” I was usually met with a bit of stunned silence. What this parent failed to realize is that I would most likely be up that night in case my son called with a request to come home because of a disastrous sleepover! To be fair, I did get that call one night from my daughter who’s friend’s mother thought it a good idea to show the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to a group of 12 year olds on Halloween. However, I am certain their schools from kindergarten to 12th grade had my number. I was a prolific email writer to teachers, counselors, principals, coaches, club leaders and anyone else I felt the need to communicate with on their behalf. It became a bit of a joke for my kids to say “Mom’s writing an email!”
I don’t think I was excessive in this but that was my own perception. The receivers of those emails might have a different take. I just felt that I had to be the advocate for my own two children because no one else would.
Eventually both of my children went off to college and yet I still felt I had to be the one to stand up for them in any way I could. I recall a conversation with my son early in his college career. He wanted to discuss an issue and how best to handle it. We chatted strategies and correct terminology. At the end I asked if I should write an email and he said “No Mom, I can handle this myself”. Wait, what? Suddenly my role as great crusader for the rights of children was falling by the wayside.
In my early days of parenting, I read a quote that struck a bit of fear into my heart. The quote was “Be careful what you say, be careful what you do because a child is watching, a child is listening, a child is making up his mind”. After I read that I started to analyze all of my words and actions. What exactly was I teaching them? I had my answer after that conversation with my son on the brink of manhood. I had taught them that they have a voice. I am so proud to hear them speak out when they see an injustice or watch them advocate for another. When my daughter entered college and handled things herself with great confidence, I bemoaned the fact that perhaps I had been that overprotective mom after all. But what she told me was that all of my protective actions had made her feel safe.
Crosby, Stills & Nash wrote that classic song which urges parents to teach their children the lessons of life well. That same song urges children to teach their parents about life. Life is an education, there is no doubt about that. I still use my voice for them in any way I can. By these days, it’s more likely that I just listen.