I Had A Helicopter Parent, And It Was Terrible

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mom-and-son-huggingWe joke a lot about helicopter parents, but they’re actually out there and the struggle is all too real for some of us. I don’t think anyone really intends to coddle their kids to such an alarming extent, but it happens. Love is a big feeling. It’s easy to get caught up and want to safeguard the ones you love from harm. I know this not only because I have to fight the urge to hover over my own kids, but also because I grew up with my very own helicopter parent.

As a child, I was afraid of everything, and that’s how my mom liked it because so was she. Our first talk about strangers that I can remember was so intense that the next time a random person said hello to me I screamed and hid, despite the fact that my mom was right there and I was hiding behind her leg. Smother-love was the nature of our relationship, and it felt natural to us when I was small, but things got more complicated as I grew up.

The thing about helicopter parents is they don’t know when to back off. The more I pushed for independence, the closer she tried to bring her mom-o-copter until finally it was just too much and the only option I felt I had was to push her away completely. Since I entered adulthood, my mother and I have gone through several periods of estrangement and limited contact. We’ve arrived at a place of peace currently, but it’s taken years to get there and our relationship still isn’t strong.

Growing up with a helicopter parent meant never learning how to be assertive. It left me with a lingering fear of confrontation and the desire to to avoid solving my own problems. Much of my early 20s was devoted to the uncomfortable process of overcoming my fears and there are still days when an argument with a friend or a particularly gruff piece of feedback leaves me in tears. I’ve had to go to therapy just to figure out how to tell my own mother to back off. Relationships with people less close to me are twice as difficult to manage.

The thing that freaks me out more than anything, though, is how often I find myself resisting the urge to hover over my own kids. You’d think someone with my background would be resentful of their upbringing and push back hard in the other direction. In some ways I do, but I can also feel it when my mind is propelling me to be too cautious, too concerned. I have to resist the urge to fight battles for my kids, to step in during playground arguments, to safeguard them against every worst case scenario I can imagine.

If there’s one gift you get from being raised by a helicopter parent, it’s the knowledge that refusing to let go won’t do your kids any favors. As much as I want to protect my kids from the world, I want even more for them to be able to protect themselves. I want them to not battle the insecurities and uncertainty that I do and to always feel confident that they can solve their own problems and wage their own wars. My mother did what she thought was right, and I don’t hold that against her, but I understand with clarity the ways she overstepped her boundaries and I’m careful not to do the same.

(Photo: Druvo / Getty)