The 21st century phrase “helicopter parenting” was coined several years back to bring attention to a specific type of parenting style. Helicopter parenting refers, of course, to parents who hover around their children and are forever smoothing things over for their kids socially, academically and on the playing fields. They tend to stand close by with antibacterial soap dispensers at the ready, and the trunk filled with extra water, snacks, sun block and sweatshirts – just in case, because – you never know.
For their babies, they purchase kneepads, all-organic baby food and Baby Mozart videos. For their toddlers, it’s all about the best of everything: the best safety equipment, the best pre-schools, the best shoes, organic and hypoallergenic sun block, macrobiotic snacks and lessons, lots of lessons: swim, music, Mandarin Chinese.
As the kids get older, the hovering continues. Children are escorted to and from school or picked up and dropped off to most all practices and play-dates, carbon footprint be damned. Tutors are hired for seven-year olds who are exhibiting perfectly normal seven-year old behavior. In fact, I once knew a parent who hired an Italian-speaking gentleman to tutor her young son in soccer, while speaking to him in (you guessed it) Italian.
Anyway, you get the picture. These are the parents that email the children’s teachers on a daily basis and have even been known to hover outside job interviews to offer their progeny salary-negotiating advice on a moment’s notice.
Well, this column is not about helicopter parents. Enough has been written over the years on this topic and even by me, today. No, this column addresses another, less noted but very important parenting challenge: Helicopter Kids.
While I am not, by most estimations, a Helicopter Parent, I have been know to parent Helicopter Kids. What do I mean? Kids who are over-protective of their parents.
What is the world like from the perspective of such a child? Let’s listen in:
"My Mom needs me. It’s as simple as that.
"When the phone rings, it’s right then that she needs me to pepper her with questions: 'What’s for dinner? Where’s my homework? Can I have a snack? Have you seen my Justin Beiber CD? Where’s my TSwift sweatshirt?' If I don’t chime in then, she may miss me too much, what with that other adult taking her away from me.
"When she sits down for a cup of tea and crackers, I know she is secretly hoping I’ll jump into her lap and sneak a taste of the tea, nibble on her whole grain Ak-Mak crackers. I can’t disappoint her; it’s what she really needs from me, her ever-watchful, only-looking-out-for-her-interests child. It’s then that I suggest that her next snack might be more along the lines of hot chocolate and cookies. 'It’s a snack I think we’d both enjoy better,' I explain to her.
"Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I immediately think: My mom must be longing for me in her bed. So, I jump up and race off to join her. Only then will she be able to sleep peacefully – with me by her side. Just to make sure she really knows I’m there, I poke at her back and rub my chilly feet into her legs. (Just to comfort her extra.) She often says, 'Honey, we both need some sleep ... ' and I think, yup, that’s why I’m here.
"When school lets out, all the other kids toss their backpacks toward their moms and race off to be with their friends. Not me. I hang out by my Mom for a while, keeping her company. I’m thinking she must have missed me all day and needs check-in time with me.
"Sometimes she says: 'For the love of Mike!' – I’m not sure who Mike is – 'Honey, would you please just go and play with your friends so I can have a few minutes to talk with some grownups?' I am not fooled by this request. Not for a minute. Deep down she feels more secure if I stand next to her, chatting with her about the dead ant that Natalie and I found next to the purple chicken nugget at lunch today. Well, it wasn’t lunch really. It was just before lunch. The chicken nugget was an old one because it wasn’t really purple, like they usually are. This one was purple-grey. The ant looked newly dead. I secretly suspect Jimmy killed it.
"What’s that? You think I might prefer to go and play now? Aw, my mom can’t fool me with that one, and neither can you.
"I’m just doing my job. I’m a helicopter kid, and someday my Mom will thank me for it."
Sigh. Sometimes the “tie that binds” gets a little too darned tight.