Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Chapter 6

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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.

About mom2times

Tina Celentano writes about love, life and lessons from the empty nest. She is a Today Parenting and Red Tricycle contributor and is published in the anthology Once Upon An Expat. In no particular order, she is a friend, mom, film buff, book aficionado, music lover, wife, sister, writer and traveler. You can reach her at tina@babyboomermomblog.com

8 responses »

  1. I loved this entry because I can relate so well. I don’t believe that I am or was a ‘helicopter’ parent (but does anyone really think that of themselves??) but I have had to change tactics as my child got older. I find I have to stop myself jumping to her rescue and instead ask “What do you think you should do about this?” – I then stand back, cross my fingers and hope that I’ve taught her enough to figure it out on her own. But I’m always there with options if she needs them. 🙂 Thanks for writing such great entries – loving them all.

    Kerri

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  2. Do you think we were helicopter parents? Yeah, probably in a way. I recently realized two things: One, I was probably a helicopter parent in the eyes of some & perhaps as I understand my the term. BUT, not to the extent that it harmed my children, just to the extent that it protected them, made them feel safe and gave them confidence and the understanding that they were deeply loved.

    I have a memory of almost torpedoing the birthday party of one of my sons 3rd grade peers by asking whether the children would be wearing seat belts on an outing. When the answer was no, I said my son could not go. When another peers mom asked my why, she also said her son couldn’t go & was asked by another peers mom…Fortunately, with multiple invitees not able to go without a seatbelt, the parents decided to take two cars and everyone had fun & was safe.

    My teaching/parent educator viewpoint is that there is a toxic version of helicopter parenting, but we weren’t it. It involves protecting children from the consequences of mistakes & the reality of life. These are parents who bully other parents, coaches, teachers & school staff when their children make the inevitable mistakes in life or don’t get their way.

    Not you, my friend & not me.

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    • Thanks, Jan! I wouldn’t consider us the extreme either and our wonderful kids are proof of that!! It’s clearly a fine line that I think we handled well…of course, hindsight is everything!!!

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  3. Tina, once again a superb recounting and insights of your parenting. Are you going to make these blogs into a book? Perhaps you should think of it as they are very well written. Proud of you, Girl!! Love, Lou xxoo

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  4. Tina, you’ve created good citizens! You taught your children to notice, have a voice and to use it. Maybe someday (in the far away future) you might find yourself confused by an unscrupulous insurance sales person or banker or Dr. or care giver etc. I believe your children will helicopter over you and each will feel as though:
    “I couldn’t help but be an advocate for this small helpless elder. 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, my parents needed a voice and I was all too willing to be one for my two”.
    As they were… you’re in good hands. kb

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    • Thanks, Kathy, I believe that to be true! I hope I’ve created good karma! I know I have raised decent people so that’s the most one could hope for. Thanks for reading and the feedback.

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