Or Dads is the latest buzz phrase coined by the popular press. You have surely met them – they hover over their children’s lives like a helicopter hovering over a strike zone. They manage every facet of their offspring’s lives so that no little thing can bring the least stress to their little darlings.
These parents not only run every aspect of the child’s life, they continue this bizarre behavior up to and through college, sending daily to-do lists, rushing to the student residence to do weekly laundry and grocery shopping. Some even go as far as daily wake-up calls.
The popular press is treating this as though it were a new phenomenon. No such. Back in the 1980s we were in Clemson, SC, where Herself taught at the University. As a mechanical contractor I frequently saw student housing, apartments and condos which were targeted at the student market. I would often see these mamas hanging around to do their little darling’s cleaning and laundry. Sometimes I could overhear them talking to one another about having to do all this for their dear offspring, who couldn’t possibly function without mama’s loving help. I thought that they and their little darlings were quite pathetic.
Not only have these people, overprotective fathers as well as mothers, screwed up their own lives, they have screwed up their little darlings as well. This behavior is a form of fear compulsion, usually called a phobia. These people are so fearful that something will happen to the kids that they do not let the child out of the house without a security patrol. The usual excuse offered by these “helicopter parents” is that they are keeping little so-and-so safe.
Yeah, the world can be and always has been a potentially hazardous place, but we have to function in same. It is not our job as parents to wrap the kidlet up in cotton and rubber. It is our job to teach the kid to function in this world. I see no reason why an adolescent, male, female, or otherwise, should not be able to clean house, cook a meal, drive, shop for groceries, navigate to a destination and back, stitch up a rip in a garment, exercise proper judgment about where to go, protect himself/herself emotionally and physically, and on and on and on……
If we have done our proper job as parents then we have raised a person capable of being tough enough to survive in the world. Part of that rearing is keeping the kid safe while growing up, but some of that does mean letting go in a rational manner.
One of the things which would drive a helicopter mom crazy would be to let her darling get dirty or scratched up. However, it must be noted that children who play in the yard, get scratched up, get dirty, and even eat dirt in the first few years of life have far fewer allergies than those who are kept antiseptically clean. Children don’t develop antibodies to things that they are not exposed to. After infancy/early childhood it is too late. Children’s bodies are miracles of growth and development, as are their minds. But only if the parents let them grow.
Putting the kid in mama’s (or papa’s) protective custody until the parent dies is rather like the old Chinese custom of binding baby girl’s feet. Just as the feet cannot grow past the binding the overly protected child cannot grow past mama’s influence. This poor individual will never be a human capable of taking on life without a caretaker, and will probably be incapable of successful and loving relationships with anyone else.
What does mama do when the kid finally gets enough gumption to run away from mama? If they do. How is the kid – now adult supposed to function without mama guiding every little step and holding his little hand?
Helicopter parenting is child abuse. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Our job as parents is to work ourselves out of a job.