Roots AND wings – cliché, I know – but it was the first parenting motto I internalized. Choosing the framed calligraphic watercolor to hang on the wall was easy. Putting into action the underlying principals was hard.
Roots, it turns out, are my strength. But, as my children’s wings grew so did my anxiety. I worried each time one of my children sought to acquire a new feather, and stressed even more as they tentatively ventured beyond the nest.
The act of helicoptering started small – a quick ‘copter flight to affirm circumstances. An occasional emergency landing, fully justified.
Then one day, I crossed over for a quick non-emergency landing. Easy touch and go. Successful. Hardly noticed.
And the rest, well, it’s like potato chips … hard to stop at one.
While raising children, I experienced the stresses of wearing hats on many sides of the traditional mommy wars (those who worked outside of the home vs those who worked on the home front):
- a full-time corporate working mom
- a full-time PhD student & part-time working mom
- a part-time PhD student & full-time academic working mom
- a full-time, tenure track academic working mom
- a part-time independent technical consultant working mom
- a full-time stay-at-home mom, and
- both a single full-time working mom and a single full-time stay-at-home mom (always married to the same person but ‘single’ for short stretches while my husband traveled frequently and worked several partial year stretches full-time in another state)
I tried on many mom hats, but each sported a fringe of guilt and loss of control.
Mommy (and daddy) wars continue to rage and ‘helicopter parenting’ is among the battlegrounds. But, the term ‘helicopter parent’ is often used as a catchall. Parents tend to ‘copter in specific areas – education, medical, social life, sports or activities – and those areas vary by parent and child. One parent’s helicopter intervention is another’s version of good parenting. One child’s critical intervention is another’s unnecessary intrusion.
The trick is know where the line is drawn for an individual child-parent relationship.
Without knowing it, I was crossing the line. The more I hovered, the more it seemed events required my intervention. In hindsight, I believe hovering was a way to ensure control during the most chaotic times – an addictive act. If there was any chance of stopping, I had to stand up and admit I was flying too close.
Now in my second decade of recovery, like any addiction, helicoptering remains an ongoing journey. Today, my children are fully independent, married adults, yet I still occasionally fight the urge to over help. The impulse to hover is strong in this one.
Sometimes I have to stop in the middle of pre-flight procedures to remind myself that my adult children, my in-law children, and now my grandchildren, must grow wings of their own.
What does the 95 year old mom call her 70 year old daughter? My baby.
Once a parent, forever a parent. I believe that if we care about our children, we fight an urge to hover. And I also believe that you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
I’m BeckyB and I’m a recovering helicopter parent working the 12 steps. Join me on the journey.
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