I love helicopter parents. I really do. Every time I read about a mother hiding behind the bushes with binoculars during her daughter’s college orientation or pleading with a potential employer on behalf of her son, I become a better parent. I may not have a vision of the kind of parent I want to be, but I know exactly what kind of parent I don’t want to be.
In the last chapter of “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success,” Madeline Levine’s ubiquitous new book about the dangers of over-parenting, there are all sorts of suggestions for being better parents. But the odds that I’m going to write out my family values and tape them to the refrigerator door are even worse than the likelihood of my 14-year-old son coming downstairs to tell me that he just finished all his summer science work and would like to take out the garbage.
I know I should emulate good parents, and take advice from people like Levine. I’m just not inspired to. But tell me in disdainful detail about the parents who jumped the rope at an Easter egg hunt to make sure their children got enough chocolate eggs and Marshmallow Peeps and I will not only raise my eyebrows but will listen, reflect and work harder to correct my own meddling ways. It’s easy to scoff at extreme helicopter parents, but with a little honesty, we might see a little reflection of ourselves in their hovering behavior.
So as my boys prepare to start 7th and 9th grade, I would like to thank the parents who I am trusting to shine the light on the path I vow not to follow.
Thank you for staying up until 11 pm to put the finishing touches on the diorama that
you your 12-year-old made for social studies class.
Thank you for saying things like “what, we have a biology quiz tomorrow?”
Thank you for hiring a tutor to ensure that your 10th grader does not get another A- in Honors English.
Thank you for talking about college with your middle school student, and insisting that he beef up his resume with a few more extra-curricular activities. Come to think of it, thank you for having a middle school student who has a resume.
And when your 10th grader ends up on the bench in yet another soccer game, thank you for calling the coach to give her a piece of your mind.
I assure you, dear helicopter parents, I will not mind when you take up more than your allotted five minutes at your parent-teacher conference — if, that is, I have the pleasure of overhearing you explain that it was really your fault that your son’s homework was late and that he shouldn’t be penalized.
And please know that while I may shake my head at your mad dash to go back home and get the saxophone your child forgot to bring to school, I will remember your actions fondly when I am tempted to do the same.
The bell is about to toll to start the school year. So lift off, good helicopter parents. Safe flight.