Blackhawk Down

You’ve heard the term “Helicopter Parent”, right? Well, the really amped up version of this is the Blackhawk Parent. Spouse seems to think that I may qualify for this moniker. I wish I could disagree.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the waiting room of my kid’s OT (if you have noticed a propensity for long posts on Mondays, this is why). They have both been diagnosed with dysgraphia. It’s a pretty complicated learning disability, not simply bad handwriting, but the upshot is they have difficulty with written expression. Both kids come to OT once a week to try and help them out with this. Thing 1 uses an Alpha Smart in his classroom as well. But there are days, and today is one of them, where I wonder if it is all really necessary.

My issues with this go back about seven years, to when Thing 1 started preschool. He was always pretty active and assertive, much more so than the others in his playgroup. But it wasn’t until he started preschool that I really noticed a difference between him and the other kids. And when he finally caught his first cold and I have to give him cold medicine with red dye and stuff in it, I really noticed a difference. My little not-quite-three year old threw a kitchen chair across the room. Wow. I started doing some research on diet and behavior and discovered The Feingold Diet. This was a total godsend. We don’t follow as strictly as we used to, but we still eliminate artificial colors, flavors, corn syrup, and preservatives to the best of our ability. It just makes for a healthier family. But what caused me to look into this? The fear that my kid wasn’t like the others.

Then, of course, came school, and the pressure to “perform to their ability” started. After much renting of clothes and gnashing of teeth, we came to the dysgraphia diagnosis. So now Spouse and I do all kinds of things to help them be as successful in school as they can. Again, it was the fear that brought us to that point.

But why? I’m not saying that as parents that we shouldn’t do as much as possible to help our kids get the best possible start, but let’s stop and think about this a moment. Have we fallen prey to the pressure out there? If you have ever been to a playgroup or have ever spoken to another parent you know exactly what I’m talking about. That little twinge of “my kid doesn’t do that” which makes you wonder if they are going to fall behind. So you start doing all kinds of things to help them out and have them “catch up”. It doesn’t stop when the playgroups end, either. Here in Stepford, there is huge pressure to have your kids in either QUEST (the GT program), PACE (accelerated math), or both. I can only imagine it getting worse as their academic careers progress.

Which brings me to the helicopters. These parents are so invested in their child’s success that they do way too much for them. There have been plenty of articles recently about these children going off to college and how they have a hard time adjusting without Mom and Dad along with them. These kids have always had their parents step in and help them out with everything, be it special tutors, hands on help, or, in the worst cases, doing it for them. As I sit here in the waiting room, I wonder where I fit in the spectrum.

When I was trying to get some assistance from out school district, I ran into all kinds of resistance. The counselor even told me that “we don’t put kids on a 504 plan to turn C students into A students”. At the time, that really pissed me off. But now I realize that it is the attitude she has to have with some of these parents in order to make sure that only the truly needy get the services (which we finally did).

So, let’s return to my underlying question: Have we, and now I’m talking about all parents, fallen for the hype? Have we heard so much about the competitive schools, programs, and all that we are willing to do anything and spend anything to make sure that our kids have that all elusive edge? And what is this doing to our kids and families?



6 responses to “Blackhawk Down

  1. Unfortunately, many parents have fallen for that crap… and crap is exactly what it is.

    We are a nation of social climbers.

  2. I’m not a parent, but I play one at my job…

    I used to work with college students, back when helicopter parents were few and far between. By the time I left that job, it had become the norm. I found them really annoying, because your kids are 18, I can’t share anything about them with you unless they sign an information release. And they aren’t going to do that, because then I can tell you that they got busted drinking or smoking pot. Grrr…

    But then I was at a conference and went to a session about working with helicopter parents, and there was a person in the room who was both someone who worked with college students and the parent of a college freshman. He was basically like, for 18 years, I’ve been asked/begged/forced to be involved in my kid’s education. It’s hard to stop! That’s when I got a lot more appreciation for the helicopter parents…

    I think, at your kids’ ages, and with their documented challenges, being a helicopter parent is actually being a good parent. When they get to high school, though, you should start backing off a bit, and teaching them how to be good young men even when you’re not standing over their shoulder. Their RAs and Res Hall Directors will thank you. 🙂

  3. I think that part of it is the fact that there just aren’t as many opportunities in our society as there used to be.

    Once upon a time, a man with only a high school diploma could easily make enough to support a family. Now, those kind of jobs are increasingly being exported overseas or are simply gone and many families need both parents to work just to pay the mortgage or the rent. There’s more job insecurity these days and most people’s wages aren’t keeping up with the rising prices of food, gas, college, and (until very recently) housing.

    Seeing the decreased possibilities for social mobility, people focus on giving their kids every possible advantage.

  4. I quit the Olympic Mommy Training Team.

    You probably weren’t reading my blog when I talked about this.

    First, I luckily live in an area where one doesn’t need to be an Olympic Mommy and isn’t surrounded by them (although they are here, of course).

    It might be because everyone here is a freaking PhD rocket scientist so genius is the norm and nobody feels they have anything to prove LOL.

    Second, I learned early and hard the disaster it is for my kids.

    I also realized how sick it felt inside me to get caught up in that climbing.

    I think Niobe, though, has hit 100% on the why of it.

    So much fear, so much worry about limited resources.

    It’s true and it makes it understandable.

    So we sat back and considered our priorities.

    And we altered them.

    In the end, we hope to help our children LIVE smarter more than BE smarter. KWIM?

    Using My Words

  5. I think helping your kids overcome learning disabilities is different from excessive helicopter parenting. I chose long ago not to do the excessive mommy thing. I felt supported in my decision by the book, The Hurried Child.

    I am not sure it was the entirely the right thing. My kids did not like school and I was never able to motivate them to like school or to want to achieve academically. They are both outstanding musicians, but not pursuing music as a career. Both have dropped out of community college, and I do wonder if I should have tried to helicopter more. My daughter, 19, is giving community college another try next semester, and my son, 21, is talking about taking some classes to further his career. So, maybe some kids just take longer.

    This is complicated! But a good discussion.

  6. I hadn’t considered the dwindling resource angle. That is one worth thinking about.

    But it is such a slippery slope. I’m always asking the teachers what the appropriate level of assistance is on a project, but the other parents seem to have no such reservations. And I have to help so much right now that I’m afraid I won’t know when to pull back. Sigh…

    It is complicated. But nothing worth doing is ever easy.

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