Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Don't Give a Flip What You Think of My Helicopter Parenting

Its been about a month now since my newsfeed lit up with links to "Helicopter Parenting" articles with my friends adding tags like, "This is the WORST" and "These parents make me crazy!". I pretty much thought, "don't care" and moved on. But since then this has been niggling in my brain and bugging me. So finally when Real Simple Magazine came out with the article, How, and Why to Stop Being Helicopter Parents, I decided to read it.

Now I've gone from "don't care" to "I care VERY much" and it's not that I'm angry per se, I'm frustrated.  You see, special needs parents have to be helicopter parents and this is just one more instance where we are left open to judgement and condemnation by the public who feels they get a say in how we raise our children.  It isn't enough to say, "well, its different for you, you are a special case" by those who know and love our children because not everyone does. The fact remains, in many cases our kids look very normal sitting in the sandbox at the park and I am the helicopter that is revolving around that box and you don't get to judge me because you don't know me or my child.

Would you rather I ignore him, have him mis-read a social situation and then haul off and smack your child?
Would you rather I have a conversation with you, pull my attention off of my child and then help me call 911 when I look up and he is no where to be found? (Do you NEED me to post every instance of child elopement from this summer alone? Sadly, there have been a lot and they haven't all ended well)
Does it bother you that I've sent snacks with my child because we've been implementing a dietary intervention 24/7 for the last 3 months to rule out food as cause for his constant stomach pain? Would you rather I send a list of things that he cannot eat and require that you adhere?
Does it make you feel like a better parent, chatting behind my back about how I called the school yet again to defend my child's actions because he was struggling one day? 

It has taken me 10 solid years to get to a point where I can ignore the stares and comments people make in my presence when my kids are having a tough time. On good days I can ignore them, on better days I can educate them, all other days I lash out at them and their ignorance.  But please, feel free America to hand them more ammunition. Go ahead and call me a Helicopter Parent, in time I will learn to let it bounce off of me like I have when I was called "over protective" and "overly worried".  My job is not to answer to you, my job is to keep my boys safe and healthy first and foremost and until they have learned the skills to do that on their own... I will continue to hover.

It is with frustration, not anger, that I send this blog out into the world. Frustration that so many people have latched on to this (not so) new parenting issue, that it has moved like wild fire across the internet and in doing so inadvertently ostracized entire swarms of parents world-wide who (for whatever reason) cannot or will not land their helicopter. This is not an issue of having a name for it, it is the issue of giving people free license to use it to judge or criticize someone else.

It hasn't been so long ago that mother's of children with Autism were called Refrigerator Mothers, the  idea that we caused our children to be Autistic because we didn't give them enough love and attention. Now we will be called "Helicopter Mothers" because of the opposite. I guess its just too much to hope that one day we will just be called "Mothers"

There are tons of articles floating around about this Helicopter Parenting stuff but I've chosen to only read the one Real Simple article and I want to state that I'm not angry at Real Simple, I am a subscriber and I will continue to be one. I don't consider the article to bad reporting because I am (again) a minority parent and they cannot write every article to take into consideration every single person.  In fact, Real Simple has done a few very good (and emotional) articles on Autism:

Portraits of Love: How One Father Captured the Essence of His Autistic Son

I Don't Know How to Love You


  1. You said it, girl! I remember the looks I used to get when I'd take Matthew into the ladies' room with me at the grocery stores and/or restaurants. After all, at the time he was almost 5'10, built like a brick steam house, and had no business being in the ladies' bathroom, right. The first couple of times, I would just simply smile and say, "He's autistic and I can't be too careful these days." I don't give explanations anymore. Granted, Matthew no longer needs me to be right there but I would be if necessary. I don't care how old he is!

  2. I have neurotypical kids, so I was fortunate that I didn't have to helicopter out of necessity for long. I completely and totally get it that your kids merit a different approach than mine. I have far, far, far too many friends who have kids with autism, so I have a blessedly different perspective than the rest of the world.
    I've encountered a 4 year old who ran up to me in the grocery store parking lot to tickle the foot of my infant in her carseat. The mom was horrified and overly apologetic. I instantly recognized the quirks of autism in her son, and asked "autism?" She said "yes, so very sorry" and rushed away as I said "Honey no need to apologize, he's fine and was just curious and happy to see a baby. I'm just glad he didn't run into traffic." I don't know if she heard me, I can only hope she did. It's horribly unfortunate that she was on such a defensive that she couldn't feel comfortable stopping to talk for even a second, or let her son explore my child's foot, and felt that her only option was to profusely apologize and whisk her son away from us. I'm sure she was just glad I didn't yell at her to control her kid, as so many others have obviously done.

  3. I totally agree with you. Even family still don't completely understand. If I had money for every time I prevented something because of hp I would be rich!

  4. I appreciate your feedback more than you know. I wanted to write this very badly but in all honesty, I was afraid my opinion was unique. I do hope one day my boys won't need my constant supervision, I don't think anyone WANTS to be a helicopter parent. I just really wish that whole theme had not gone as viral as it did and in doing so, made it socially acceptable to again put parents in categories. I guess I don't see the benefit in it.

  5. I don't think the article was intended at all for parents of special needs children. Try not to be offended -- this article is pointed more toward those folks who can't let their kid do his or her own science fair project, interact with teachers, and make mistakes/be held accountable with their peers. Clearly, you have to be more involved. It concerns me that helicopter parenting is the norm instead of the exception. Your situation is the exception...

  6. You keep on writing & don't stop! I have a 5 year old son & since he was 12-15months old I knew something wasn't right. Now that he's 5 its really clear something isn't right - we've yet for an official diagnosis but its heading towards Asperger. For a long time I have been feeling like people think I'm over-board with watching him, I'm always checking, looking in the other direction while they are trying to talk to me. You know the saying "that's why he's like that...look at the way his mother is". Sorry Missey I know...not YOU when my child is about to exploded and lash-out. I've been told "calm down, just relax its all fine" - arhhh no sorry its not. This could set us back days if not weeks if I don't intervene. Are you going to be there at 1 am when my 5 year old can't sleep from fear gripping anxiety over what happened last week? Are you going to help me hold my child as he passes out? Oh & can you please help me because when he comes to, he has accidents! - I was starting to doubt myself because of everyone's "professional opinion". With the help of Dr's, dieticians, ped's we've tried this diet, that diet, this tablet, that tablet....and some more just in case. I've realized, like you, you have to shut-out the stares or side-ways glances at each other while "hovering" over my child. Thankfully I've found families with ASD and they completely get me & my kids. I get them too, when I see their child struggling I don't think "naughty kid", No not at heart breaks for the terror, anxiety, confusion, frustration & anger that little person is coping with...on top of everyone else adding to their burden with their judgmental stares or comments. You have given me the strength to keep on hovering...& be proud! I can be a strong person, strong enough to do WHATEVER it takes to protect my child from further harm....& yes that can be just a normal play for others at the park - (We do have a 3 year old who is a happy little girl, even though she has to cope with the stresses of her brother). All I can say is thankyou! & thankyou to my friend for directing me to your blog :0* kisses & hugs to you both. To others who don't understand us & think we are helicopters - Its ok...I understand you & that's all that matters to me...kisses & hugs to you also. At the end of the day, all any of us want, is to make our children feel safe, loved & happy! Please lets just keep it that way.