Father's Journal / Helicopter parent?
Published 5:15 pm, Thursday, September 2, 2010
Every day I thank God that I was not, and never will be, an adolescent girl. A long time ago, I was an adolescent boy, but quite honestly I don't remember too much of it.
A few weeks ago at a gathering with other families, one of my daughter's friends did not even talk to my daughter. We have been on countless car trips and adventures with this kid and yet she didn't even say "Hi" when my daughter approached her. It was as if this girl was a complete stranger.
I don't know the complete back-story. I am sure that even if I did know the story, my "Y" chromosome would prevent me from understanding it. My wife and I discussed the situation after the girls went to bed. Afterwards, I was still in the dark. But as I was having the conversation with my wife, my mind drifted to thoughts of my father, and whether he had a conversation like this, with mom, about me.
Mom: "Joe, I don't think Tom's friend, Steve, talked to him at the picnic yesterday."
Dad: "What are you talking about?"
Mom: "I think Steve ignored Tom at the picnic."
Dad: "Who's Steve, and what picnic did we go to?"
Mom: "Steve is that kid who plays football with Tom. You know, they got in trouble at the school last year. He is always over here watching TV. Ann had to write his papers for school.
Dad: "OK, now which one of our nine kids is Tom? Is he the one with glasses?"
Mom: "Yes, Ann also has glasses but she is an adolescent girl."
Dad: "Okay, what was the question again?"
My dad was not stupid. And he was involved more than other dads of his generation were, but I don't think he was involved in his children's relationships. Plus, we were boys, and all my friends were teammates. If we had a problem, we hit each other and that was the end of it. I can vouch for Steve, myself, my four brothers and most of my friends. We were not that bright. We didn't have layers. We had a layer. Period. One layer. That was it. Nothing else was going on. We were quite possibly idiots.
My dad did not have the phone numbers of his children's friends' dads programmed on his cell phone. He didn't have a cell phone. They weren't invented. He would see the other dad at games. Sometimes he coached, sometimes he refereed. He was involved. He did what he thought was needed. However, I am positive he didn't call, as I did, another dad to discuss the picnic slight.
Are my wife and I too involved? Shouldn't the kids work it out themselves? Are we the pejorative term "Helicopter Parents?" Are we parents that hover and get into every aspect of our child's life? Are we hurting their self-esteem by not allowing them to work out their own problems? I have no idea. In terms of adolescence, I am quite possibly an idiot.
My wife and I share the same goal. We want the kids to reach adulthood with the healthiest self-esteem possible. Not a rude, egotistical, entitled sense of self worth. Nor semi-mute hermit kids who will not stand up for themselves. But an adult with a healthy sense of self-worth and self-love. In addition, we want them to have all their limbs, and we don't want them to dress in all black with the black lipstick.
What is the proper level of involvement? My wife calls my upbringing "Lord of the Flies," since my parents had nine kids, much of the discipline structure was peer to peer. That is a fancy way of saying we fought it out amongst ourselves and my parents were not hovering nearby. However, that was a long time ago and not in Fairfield County. We want our kids to be perfect. We want the teachers, other children, and parents to appreciate our kids for the wildly fantastic kids we believe them to be. I guess we want others to validate our own feelings for our incredible children.
Maybe, I just have to call my sister Ann to get the answers. She did write most of Steve's papers and she was an adolescent girl.