Monday, April 27, 2015

Helicopter Parents

My kids spent the weekend away at a youth group event. This is not a big deal on the surface, as both of my kids spend the summer at sleep-away camp. A weekend away to them is a walk in the park.

However, it was my 8th grader’s first time at this youth group event, and for some reason, she has been nervous about it since she heard about it in the winter. Even though her sister talked about how much fun it was, even though her sister’s friends talked about how much fun it was, she was nervous.

She was afraid she wouldn’t make friends. Anyone who knows her would laugh at this, because she’s outgoing and silly and has no trouble making friends. But she was convinced it wouldn’t happen.

The stress built and built and built, even though as the date got closer, she became excited about going. The week before she left, her stress levels were at an all-time high, which meant mine were as well. She had a ton of homework, several tests before and after the weekend and I’m pretty sure our house vibrated from all the stress. Add in the “what do I pack” dilemma and oh, boy. Be glad you were not in our house.

I could totally relate. I was bullied as a child and the thought of going to any event run predominantly by kids (who, in my experience, were mean) rather than adults (who, in my experience, were safe) would have sent me over the edge. But my older daughter has loved it, my husband loved it as a kid, and I decided long ago that I was not going to let my fears influence my kids. I encourage them to go to camp, even though I hated it as a child, and this youth group is similar enough that I’ve encouraged both of them to at least give it a try.

So this weekend was my youngest’s turn to “give it a try.”

I drove the two of them to the bus location, gave them each a quick hug in the car and left before the bus arrived. There were a ton of kids waiting there, and from previous experience with the bus situation, as well as being the mom of teen girls, I know that waiting with them for the bus would be a disaster. They would be embarrassed and I would be tempted to get involved—suggesting they make friends, asking questions or really just embarrassing them by breathing. So I took a last look at both of them and drove away.

And heard nothing. Not a thing.

Now, what you have to understand is one key point: despite my closeness with my kids (and we are very close), I am not a helicopter parent. I suspect, however, that they might be helicopter kids. You see, with texting, I hear from them all the time. All day, every day. What’s going on in class, who’s being mean to whom, what grades they think they might have gotten, what grades they’ve actually gotten, who’s hungry when, etc. Despite my questioning why they’re texting in class (they always seem to have a “good excuse”), they text me multiple times a day, almost every day. I couldn’t even become a helicopter parent if I wanted to—they don’t give me time to consider it.

When my older daughter has gone to these youth group events, I usually hear from her a few times. I at least get a “goodnight I love you” text or an early morning “good morning” text. They’re reassuring, even if I don’t initiate them, because I know she’s okay.

But I heard nothing. And that was fine, because I know if they’re too busy to text that means they’re having a good time. Until my husband asked if I’d heard from them. And I started wondering why I hadn’t. And wondering if they were having a good time. Especially my youngest. But I didn’t want to text and ask because I didn’t want to pull them away from what they were doing or whom they were meeting. And if I happened to text them at a bad moment, I didn’t want to hear about something that would pass far quicker for them than it would for me.

At camp, there’s a no electronics policy. So unless they write me a letter, I don’t hear from them. That causes its own set of issues, but it gets me used to having them away and it makes me realize that what I hear about in a letter happened five days ago and of course the bad things have passed (maybe even the good things, too).

But with this texting thing? I’m doing my best to let them go and it’s like they’re trying to make me a helicopter parent. So unless that helicopter is going to take me away to a deserted island, I really don’t need that kind of help. Thank you.


  1. I think you're well on your way to being a well-adjusted empty-nester when the time comes. You seem to totally have a handle on not riding the helicopter. :)

    1. Especially because they're bumpy and make me airsick. ;)