Helicopter Parents

Recently, I took my 3yo to her new morning dance-class, where I couldn’t help but notice that I was surrounded by helicopter parents. How did I recognize these helicopter parents?

At first, I didn’t.

In fact, I hadn’t even used the phrase helicopter parent until a few recent experiences defined these parents so precisely, no other phrase could hold a candle to the term.

The class started like many other dance classes I’ve experienced over the last few years. The little ones ventured into the classroom while the moms/dads surrounded the viewing windows. I was used to the routine. The parents spend the hour socializing, occasionally looking up to see their child do something cute… or, if you’re like me, the anti-helicopter — spend the hour catching up on phone calls, email, playing Angry Birds or running to the grocery store like a maniac for a few loose ends without my usual 2 attachments.

Sorry, but if I have an hour to myself — I’ve got shit to do.

But this hour was different. I hadn’t attended a morning class at this dance studio. I guess I took for granted that the 6p classes were full of kids of work-outside-of-the-home-moms who, yes, enjoyed seeing their children dance, but understood how important the separation was. We would complain about how we wished the viewing windows were only one-way glass, so the kids couldn’t see if their parents were actually watching them or not, and, ya know, focus on dancing.

I casually mentioned the dream of the one-way glass to break the ice and start a conversation with some of these helicopter moms… and I got the look of death from the moms who were actually paying attention to what I was saying. Like… how could I even THINK such a thing?! 

But that was only the beginning. 10 minutes into the class, one 3yo supposedly had to go to the bathroom. She barely looked at her mother, and her mom opened the door to the classroom, asked her if she had to go potty, the kid shrugged and helicopter-mom A disappeared with her daughter for 10 min. The dance director appropriately scolded heli-mom A for interrupting class without knocking — both when she went in and when she brought her daughter back into class! Does etiquette not mean anything to anyone these days?

That was nothing compared to helicopter mom #2.

This heli-mom never sat… she stood by the glass door, I swear, nose pressed against the glass, constantly looking at her watch, but only out of the corner of her eye — God forbid she loses lazer-level eye contact with her daughter. Her anxiety made me want to run to the bar around the corner for a beer AND a shot of tequila.

About 20 minutes into the 60 minute class, her daughter turned ever so slightly toward her mom and helicopter mom #2 jumped at the chance to open the door to make sure she was ok. Wait, there’s more. The heli-mother then grabs her daughter from the classroom, takes her into the lobby telling all of us “Oh, well, she only has a 20 minute attention span. I already talked to the teacher about this. I know this is ok.” The director of the studio was sitting right there, a little confused, and instead of talking to the helicopter mom, the director talked to her daughter. “Chelsea, do you want to go back in to dance with your friends?” The heli-mom answers of course No, she’s done. She only has an attention span of 20 minutes” Seriously, Chelsea looked FINE. Heli-mom was holding her like a baby and Chelsea was easily 4 or 5 years old. She was doing great in class too. Personally speaking, my 3yo’s attention span sucked way worse than Chelsea’s, but there was no way I was ripping her out of the classroom!

The sad thing is, these were only 2 examples of what I witnessed… there are more. My last example? Helicopter mom C yelling at her child in true Momma-Rose fashion — because she wasn’t doing the dance steps right. She stood at the door in tap class screaming “Ashley!! Pay attention! Shuffle STEP! SHUFFLE STEP!” I somehow resisted the urge to smack that one. I wished I had my flask so I could pass it around… these heli-moms were in desperate need of some form of an anxiety reducer.

I just didn’t get it, I mean… they are in DANCE class… you are paying someone to teach your child to be social, active & creative with their peers.

At one point, I thought the heli-moms might blow a gasket when I walked away from the viewing area to pee. Seriously people, your kids are in dance class… they’ll be ok without you for an hour. They are with you all effing day… don’t you deserve a break from them too? Let go. Because it’s only an hour now, then it’ll be a little longer for preschool… then a full day of school… do you really need me to go on?

This is the process. They are temporary residents in our home. We need to teach them that they can, and will be ok without us holding their hands through every big & little thing they do. Sure we can support them through it all… but at some point, they will need to figure out how to deal with things in a healthy way. On their own. We need to give them wings to fly… freely & confidently.

I’m not claiming to be perfect here, because I’m sure I’ve had a few helicopter moments early on in motherhood. It’s not easy to raise a child, especially when you feel so overwhelmingly protective of them. But at some point, I learned… and I hope these helicopter parents will too, because if they don’t, I fear what the future will hold for these children… as well as the future of their heli-parents.

Go have a drink, helicopter-mommas. Put a little alcohol on your anxiety and give yourself a BREAK!

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    AMEN! When my daughter was younger I used to eye daggers at the playground if I didn’t jump up and rush over to her every time she sniffled. And if she tripped and fell…oh lordy. I might as well have let her lay there bleeding with bones sticking out of her arm for the death glares that were thrown my way.

    The worst though is when parents at school (I’m a toddler teacher) stick around at drop off until their kid starts crying for them. They could have just said a quick good-bye and left but no. They sit there and say, “Okay…mommy’s going now. I’ll be back soon. Don’t cry! It’s okay!” Over and over until the kid actually starts crying. It makes me so angry.

  2. Posted September 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Sing it, sister. Before my kids started school we went to lots of activities like this, and the moms completely freaked me out. Before I had kids I got ‘fired’ from a volunteer job once because I was creating an art project with kids, and I ordered the parents to leave. Because really? Symmetry in a 3 year old’s art project just isn’t that important… doing it without their mom is.

  3. Posted September 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, ladies! I knew I wasn’t alone in my anti-helicopter status. The sad thing I realized is that helicopter parents give work-at-home-moms a bad name. Because we’re not all like that! Some of us are too drunk to care. HA!

  4. Posted September 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to purposely curb my helicopter tendencies. I don’t want the kids to fight with others or get hurt, etc so I would hover so I could swoop in. So hard to break the habit.

  5. Posted September 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been there, Denise. We all want to protect our children, it’s our instinct!!! But in my crazy-mind, there is a difference between swooping in to prevent harm and helicopter parents who swoop in to simply interfere & control a situation.

  6. Posted September 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    SO NOT a heli-mom and always up for a beer. Congratulations on your DBM Top 9 today!

  7. Posted September 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I live very near and do a lot of stuff in a town with lots of Soccer/Heli-Moms. Now that their kids are getting older, they are SHOCKED when I mention my kids having chores. THEIR kids are too busy with school and activities, so mom does it all for them while they are away.

    I worry that my kids won’t notice when I’m out of town for days at a time because they can do for themselves (sometimes more than hubby can…..).

  8. Posted September 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Jennifer! And Sarah… parents who have their kids so over-scheduled they don’t have “time” for chores make me sick too. I feel bad for those children’s future life-partners. I know a few adults who grew up chore-free… it ain’t right.

  9. Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Those copter moms are crazy with a capital K. I’ve been getting dirty looks for years, even more when they find out my girl is on the spectrum then they really look like i just stabbed them. I’m good and my kid has all her limbs.

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    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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