To Hover or Not to Hover…or When is Hovering not Really Hovering?

I have many titles, most earned, some given, some liked, others not. The title I fight hard to avoid is “helicopter parent.” Like many, I enjoy reading about trends in society and know all the generation nomenclature…Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials…as well as many of the traits associated with each group. I am a late Boomer but not really a GenX’er, my kids are Millennials but I hope that along the way they’ve also picked up some Boomer values and GenX’er independence.

Apparently, we parents of Millennials have also acquired a reputation of being a “helicopter parents.”  You all know at least one of these folks and we’re all probably guilty of “helping” just a bit too much at times. I think it’s just natural for parents to want their kids to do well. Knowing how important schooling is and how competitive the college and job market can be, it’s especially hard for parents to back off and let their kids learn from the “School of Hard Knocks.” It’s easier just to finish up that assignment for them or to even to bypass the student and go directly to the teacher for an extension, because you were away at a business meeting and didn’t know about the assignment far enough in advance.

I remember a few helicopter parents from my teaching days…the 5th grade parent who escorted their child to class and proceeded to help them unpack their backpack every day for the first month of school …the second grade parent who offered to come in and sit by her child all day so that he could stay on task and she could record his homework assignments for him so he wouldn‘t forget…the parent who was upset about a grade and responded, “but we worked so hard on it.” I’ve heard stories about the parents who take their young adults to college and then insist on attending every orientation and scheduling session with them to “make sure they do it right.”  Luckily, Joe shot down my wings pretty early and I’m thrilled to know that he is confident in handling his own affairs. It means I’ve done my job.  Until a couple years ago, Jenna would never let me even think about hovering…she didn’t even want me to walk her into kindergarten the first day.

Lately I’ve noticed that a couple of the docs/nurses Jenna sees look directly at her and ask her questions. Hello?! Listen up…first of all, she’s a minor and I’m her parent and paying your bill. My responses do count.  Second, and more importantly, you know Jenna has cognitive and memory issues — even if she does answer you without looking at me first, you can’t trust that what she tells you is correct. Last night she couldn’t remember her name and today you want her to list her medications or tell you how a certain medication made her feel and when?!  You want to know how long her narcolepsy episodes last? She’s asleep – how would she know?!

So, please, folks, don’t look at me like I’m some overbearing control-freak parent who wants to manage every possible situation my daughter is involved in right now. I’m sure I’ve probably been the talk of the teacher’s lounge because I stay with Jenna while she’s in school to help as her reader and writer. I’m not trying to relive my high school days through my daughter.  Jenna has one class that she has asked to do independently and I’m happy to oblige.  I stay close and am on pins and needles for the entire hour hoping that she won’t have a seizure or that her language/voice won’t give out on her without warning. Believe me, I’d like nothing more than to have my bubbly, confident, healthy 17 year old daughter back and acting like a normal teenager.  Until then, yes, when it comes to Jenna, I’m going to be a helicopter parent. I’m not going to apologize for it either, because until you’ve held your child in your arms and every few minutes they wake up  and don’t know who you are, where they are, and think they are someone completely unknown to you, you really just can’t understand that it’s not about hovering, it’s about caring.


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