I have to admit something. I have always considered myself a bit of a helicopter parent – not only that, but it was a point of pride for me. What is a helicopter parent, you say? Where have you been? Under a rock? Well, my sheltered friends, a helicopter parent is 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. I thought being a helicopter parent made me a better parent, a more involved parent and I secretly and not always quietly judged other parents who were not hoverers. I thought they were negligent and overly permissive.
As my girl grows, I have realized that “helicoptering” after her hasn’t always been in her best interest. There are times (an increasing amount as she gets older) when she needs to assess situations, make her own decisions and act on those decisions without my immediate and direct influence. She shouldn’t be totally cut loose because she is still a kid and needs her mom, but I am definitely trying to fly a little higher and hover a bit further away. I am a work in progress.
Imagine my surprise when I learned there is a new term going around. Have you heard about lawnmower parents? A lawnmower parent is a parent who clears all obstacles from their child’s path, so that they never have to deal with any problems by themselves. How is a lawnmower parent different from a helicopter parent? Instead of hovering, lawnmower parents clear a path for their child before they even take a step, pre-empting possible problems and mowing down obstacles in their child’s way before the child even finds them.
I can’t believe I am going to use a football analogy (my husband must be SO proud!), but here goes. A helicopter parent is the coach on the field, keeping an eye on their quarterback. The coach is constantly watching the game and players and call plays from the sidelines. A lawnmower parent is the fullback, always on the field. The fullback clears the path for the quarterback or running back and his/her job is to anticipate and remove any problems their player may encounter.
I 100% understand the desire to be a lawnmower parent. I am an anxious gal to begin with and the idea of my daughter suffering in any way fills me with terrible dread. I want to wrap her in bubble wrap (both physically and emotionally), so the big bad world doesn’t beat her up too badly. I would love to prevent my daughter from experiencing any pain or discomfort. I, however, would not be doing her any favors. All of us eventually experience problems. Our kids, when they are little especially, are given the gift of our guidance and wisdom, but if we protect them from everything, they never learn how to manage or to benefit from our advice. We can do our best to buffer their pain, but it does need to be experienced, so they understand pain happens sometimes and they can survive it. By overly protecting them, we are not helping them, but hindering their ability to handle future difficulties.
I am going to do my best to keep my lawnmower parked in the garage and keep my helicopter up high and in the periphery. I am going to trust in my daughter to deal with her life. I am going to be available, however, if she ever needs advice or a shoulder to cry on. Remember my football analogy? I am trying to enjoy my seat in the bleachers watching my girl kick ass.