Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Embracing Helicopter Mom-Dom (Part 1)

When you hear the phrase "Helicopter Mom", what is the first thing you think of?  A parent who hovers over their children, stifling their opportunities at independence?  Preventing them from standing up on their own?  A parent fighting their child's battles?

Or do you see an advocate?

Lately, I have come to realize that it's both.

This has been a summer of self-reflection for me, and the way I deal with my children and their activities.  Big Brother has Dad looking out for him at most of his extra-curricular activities (sports, in particular).  But swimming is my thing.  I'm the one who pushes all 3 of my kids to participate on the swim team and use that opportunity as a chance to teach them this important life skill.  And I had several conversations with their coach this year.  And, after each one, I thought about how she likely perceived me to be.

For Ballerina and Music Man, I think she recognized that I was just trying to be sure that they weren't being excluded unnecessarily.  But I was willing to work with her.  If she didn't feel they were ready for something, there was no questions asked.  And we learned quickly that Music Man didn't like away meets and so we didn't push for anything when the meets weren't at our own pool.  But she was willing to have Ballerina try to race in a freestyle race when I requested this, and she was successful.  The last day of racing, she swam both of her races completely independently (with an older swimmer in the next lane ready to help should the need arise).  And Music Man......he did as we expected.  He got through the season.

But in some of our conversations, Big Brother's name came up.  He had a personal goal and I wanted to be sure that the coach was aware of it.  And I wanted to be sure that he understood why things weren't progressing as he would have liked in most circumstances.  So, I had to figure out when it was my responsibility to speak up for him and when to send him to talk to her for himself.  I'm not sure if I was completely successful.  I started by having him go to her and ask these things but he never came back with satisfactory answers, at least from his perspective.  So, I felt I had to jump in.  I never questioned her actions or her responses.....I just needed to understand so I could pass on this information to my 8 year old son in a way that he could understand.

But I find myself wondering what the coach sees when she looks at me.  Does she recognize the subtle difference between trying to advocate for my son and making sure he understands so he can continue to work or improve?  Or does she see a meddling parent?  And what do Ballerina's and Music Man's (or even Big Brother's) teachers see when I do the same kind of thing during the school year?  All can say that it doesn't matter what they "see" because these are MY children and I know and understand their needs better than anyone.  But if someone sees you as meddlesome, doesn't that change the way that they work with you?  Don't they become more guarded and defensive of their own positions?

So, I'm a "Helicopter Mom".  I know it.  And everyone who deals with me and my children know it.  And I feel I have to be.  I need to advocate for them and therefore I need to know what's going on and what problems they are having.  And, like any parent, I hate to hear of and deal with all of the problems that they have.  But I would like to think that the people who count recognize that I do this out of love for my children and my desire to have them succeed as they grow.  Big Brother is encouraged to go out and stand up for himself.  But he knows I'm there behind him if things don't work out.  I will come to his aid the moment he asks.  And for Ballerina and Music Man, I am stepping in on their behalf for a while longer.

"Helicopter Mom" isn't such a bad title.

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