Getting out of the Helicopter

Helicoptering!I have heard of some pretty serious hovering parents – often called Helicopter Parents – in my life and I try not to be the same way. I protect my kid as best I can but I have to let him lead his own life. I cannot hover over him and/or force him to make the decisions I want him to make. I understand that sometimes he will make good decisions. And sometimes he won’t. All I can do is teach him the best lessons I can and guide him as I am able/or as he needs me. But that type of parenting seems to be at odds with some others I know of.

I happened upon a TLC show recently called “Toddlers and Tiaras” that scared the living daylights out of me.  These parents – mainly Moms – are so enmeshed in their kids’ lives and successes that they have little identity outside of their children’s.  They dress them as adults, slap on absurd amounts of makeup, sprinkle them with glitter, and teach them to dance in sexy (often inappropriate – in my opinion) ways to win child beauty pageants.  The show made me very uncomfortable.  I watched half of one episode and was almost ill by the end.

One of the interesting things about the show is that they depict these parents in each episode without narration and without really making any judgment as it airs.  However, one glance at their website and you see sections entitled “10 Most Controversial Parents” and “Oh No They Didn’t.”  It is clear the show is intended to show the absurdity of these parents’ decisions but at the same time they are also putting on display the huge industry that is child beauty pageants and all of the companies, professionals and coaches that are behind the scenes.

While I understand the need to be nonjudgmental to get folks to be on their show – I had a tough time watching it at all.  As I mentioned already – I barely got through half of one episode.  I found that I could not watch it without almost yelling at the TV – “are you kidding me?” and “Mom, get a life!”  There are even moments on these episodes when the children show how much they are disinterested in the pageants and how angry they are with their hovering, pushy parents. 

Granted, I am making a judgment on this show after a limited viewing but it did not take me long to have my fill of these helicopter parents (I must admit, however, that I perused some clips on their website while preparing to write this blog entry).  I know that is judgmental – but I could not help it as I watched the show.  Putting a cone bra on a two year old is more than I can take.  Making a deal with a three year old to keep her fake nails on all day by promising her a pink gun is more than I can comprehend.

And as I was watching this show – I realized that there are certainly times when I helicopter over my own son.  But I have never had him take part in something he had no interest in, wear make-up/what I wanted him to wear, or dance on stage to win cash and prizes – thank God.  And I hope beyond hope that I never find my own self-worth caught up in him and I hope that I never push him into a position where he is uncomfortable (as many of the kids and Dads were on the show). 

The truth is -- there are times that I wonder what he is doing and I want to know the details of his decisions.  But I have to resist.  I trust him.  I raised him well and want him to be his own person.  To be himself he has to make his own decision, make his own mistakes, and make his own life journey. 

So even though there are times I will want to hover – I resign as a hovering parent.  I am stepping out of the helicopter.