It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane! No, wait! It’s Just My Helicopter Parent :(

So school has been in session for nearly two weeks now and I’ve born witness to a childhood affliction at the middle school that I know is common in elementary schools, but had no idea that it was carried through to the older grades. After talking to other parents of older children and getting an overwhelming response to my status on Facebook regarding this phenomenon, I have come to realize more and more children are suffering from this condition and in fact, it is becoming a widespread epidemic. No, it’s not the plague, head lice or bed bugs. It’s by far worse because apparently, once you have this, there’s no getting rid of it. It’s called “helicopter parents”.
Now a few years ago, I wasn’t even familiar with this term. In fact, I’ve only heard it in the recent months so I checked out the “formal” definition on Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines this as “a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.” This is common practice in elementary school, especially with kindergarteners and first graders and is completely understandable. Your baby is going to school for the first time, and in some cases, they’re going to be there all day without you! They’re going to have to eat lunch without you cutting it in tiny squares so they don’t choke, they’re going to have to zip up their pants on their own and they’re going to have to talk to people without you telling them, “Say thank you to Mrs. Sherman.” It’s nerve wracking for sure. I get it. The entire first few days of their school experience you are a bundle of nerves, worried about how your offspring will do on his or her own. You check the phone obsessively for calls from a teacher, principal, school nurse and are relieved when there are none. When they get home, you bombard them with questions about how their day was and are much to your dismay, you’re usually met with a generic “fine”.
And other than checking to see that they are doing their homework every night and keeping on top of their assignments, making sure they are getting along with everyone and are not being bullied, this where most normal parents’ intrusion in their children’s daily grind ceases.
Oh, but not helicopter parents. They need to be in the thick of it constantly. Their lives revolve around their precious darlings and its unclear if they think of anything else in their six and a half hours away from them during the day. I hate to make a blanket judgement, but I think most of these parents must be of the stay at home variety. Because I cannot imagine how they would have so much free time to obsess about their children otherwise. I’m barely able to remember to give my kids their vitamins in the morning. (Oh crap, I forgot to do that today…) Helicopter parents probably have a chart they fill out. Nothing like over obsessive parents to make you feel like you’re slacking.
Working in an elementary school, I am often faced with parents who eat, sleep and breathe their kids. I go on my lunch break about an hour and half before school ends and believe it or not, there are several parents waiting in their cars already, eager to pick up the little darlings and carry them home. SERIOUSLY??? Wouldn’t your time be better spent elsewhere? Cleaning the house? Grocery shopping? At the gym??? (Ahem, just a suggestion…) I know if I was not working while my kids were in school, I would be that parent running up just as the bell was ringing to end the day since I’d be trying to fit in every last ounce of child free time I could. And these people are sitting there for over an hour waiting? It’s not like the school day is a guessing game and you have to show up early on case they let the kids out at a different time. The bell rings at 3:30…no need to show up at 2. You’re kids are just fine without you hovering outside the school.
So anyway, back to these helicopter parents at the middle school. What I saw every day the last week boggles my mind. A group of four or five parents were pulled up in front of the middle school (in the fire zone, no less), standing outside their cars, coffees in hand, chatting as they watched their middle school children waiting to go inside the building. Now these “children” are teen and Tweens, desperate for a life at middle school. Mommy and Daddy standing outside every morning, waving to them as they go into the building and blowing kisses, is surely killing their chances of a social life. They’re probably being tormented by their peers already. Yes, is it petty…of course. Middle schoolers are even more petty and ridiculous than toddlers. But this is THEIR world. They don’t want parents standing outside witnessing their failed and successful attempts at socialization amongst their own. Drop them off and LEAVE! You are embarrassing the crap out of them; when they do get bullied and shoved in a locker and harassed, you can know that it’s all YOUR fault!
I for one, barely slow the car down to let my kid out. We have a routine. He offers me the top of his head for a kiss if there is no one around. If, God forbid, another middle school is within a half a mile radius of the vehicle, I get nothing. Except a grunt as he leaps from the car. And I’m ok with this. Because, unlike these psychotic helicopter parents, I remember being 12. There is nothing that your parents could possibly do to make you want to be around them in front of your peers. It doesn’t matter how cool they are at home…no one’s parents are cool in front of their friends and no middle schooler wants their parents up their ass, treating them like a baby. I bet Ozzy Orborne’s kids didn’t want their dad dropping them off at school.
I get that you’re nervous for them. Of course you are. But at some point in time, you’re going to have to let them go and trust that you taught them well. And don’t be insulted that they don’t WANT you hanging around. Deep down in their cold black teenage hearts, they still love you even though they don’t think you’re cool anymore. Chances are, you’re NOT cool anymore…so get over it.
Except, of course for me. I know I’m cool. And in a few years, maybe my 12 year old will remember it.

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One thought on “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane! No, wait! It’s Just My Helicopter Parent :(

  1. teachling says:

    Haha, “suffering from this condition” – I love it. I’m a teacher a just put up a post on this topic (http://teachling.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/helicopter-parents-more-harm-than-good/). It’s great to hear things from a parent’s perspective! Yes, I’ve taught middle school and am always surprised by the hovering parents even at that age (I have noticed a pattern though, that is seems to only occur in older students when they are the youngest or only child… Parents seem to keep hovering until they have a younger child at the school, then they go and hover around them instead!). I like your writing style!

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