Thursday, November 5, 2009

Helicopter Parents

I’ll admit it. I am one. I raised three children and I tried to make their lives as happy and trouble-free as I could. Because I’m a good mother and I only wanted the best for them. I didn’t want them to suffer from bullies, mean authority figures, social events they weren't invited to, bad grades they occasionally made, sporting teams they didn’t make, all those traumatic events that characterized so much of my trouble-laden early life.

I just wanted my children to be happy.

And guess what? They’re not. As young adults, they worry about everything. They fret over every little bump in the road of life they encounter. A boss who treats one of them unfairly is a “psychopath.” A boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t return their affection can cause a month-long depression. A job that one performs diligently is suddenly eliminated in a down economy – how fair is that?

The answer, of course, is it’s not fair. Because life isn’t fair. My generation knew that. So why did we raise our children to believe that it is?

My husband recently read an article about administrators who are seeing waves of ill-prepared children entering college, children who’ve never made a bad grade in school, or been cut from a sports team, or had to arrange their own social calendar, much less done their own laundry or kept a check book. Children who’ve been protected from failure all their lives and so have come to expect that life is fair.

When I was a girl, I didn’t get a new bicycle just because everyone else on the street got one. If I made a bad grade in school, my parents didn’t call the teacher and request I be allowed to retake the test because I might not get into the right college. On the few occasions when they attended one of my basketball games, they didn’t call the coach afterwards to see what I could do to get more court time.

I learned that sometimes things work out and sometimes life sucks. I learned that failure means picking yourself up, trying a little harder next time, and going on.

And, hopefully, my children will learn that, too. Eventually. Once I stop hovering.