Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, and Rossana Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
One of my Facebook contacts updated his status recently with something about “helicopter parenting.” The moment I read the word ‘helicopter,’ the similarly named near-acrobatic sexual position came to mind, which is what made me read it in the first place. Apparently, this term doesn’t have anything to do with sex. It has to do with a parenting style that a few of my friends are and have been practicing, and I believe I’ve been guilty of.
It’s been defined this way: “A helicopter parent (also called a cosseting parent or simply a cosseter) is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.”
You know what they say about eldest children, right? They’re the ones parents ‘’experiment’’ on. I did not helicopter-parent my eldest daughter mostly because I was a very young, working single-parent when she was younger.
I ended up doing it, anyway
What I was, and maybe still am, was a helicopter parent in general. School issues such as grades, class-standing, and homework were not as important to me as making sure that she never had to tackle any problem by herself. When kids in the school bus bullied her, I didn’t make a scene, but went to school, sought out said kids and told them in a very calm but scary manner that I was going to pull their hearts out from their chests with my bare hands if they continued to pick on my daughter.
Ditto with the boy who used to cuss in the school bus like a sailor and called her ugly. NOBODY JUDGES MY KID OR CUSSES AT HER! I went to this boy’s house, told his househelp (with a gentle smile, of course) that I needed to speak to him and when he came out of the house, taught him what REAL cussing was like. If he ever talked to my daughter again, I warned him quietly, I would do something worse than tear his heart out. I would talk to his mom.
‘’I know where you live, asshole,” I said as I got back into my car and left him standing dumbfounded in front of his gate.
So I was pretty proud of my warrior mama persona but sadly, I didn’t realize that this was rendering my daughter somewhat incapable of defending herself in certain situations. Let me just say, I found myself in this mode until she graduated from high school.
A little too late
This is not to say my kid is totally helpless. She just needs me to fix things. When I’m not there to do that, things just don’t get fixed.
And this is where I feel that I was most definitely a helicopter parent—emotionally. I don’t know many moms who let their children experience difficulty or hardship when they can easily “fix” things. Sadly, while so many of us are protecting our kids from any sort of adversity in life, we are also leaving them unarmed against the crap that happens to everyone at some point. Don’t tell yourself that no crap will happen to your kid(s). Obviously, we all know that ain’t true.
Every parent, especially in the Philippines, has the helicopter inside of them—yayas and drivers and grandparents notwithstanding. Taking care of your child means doing everything you can to make his/her life comfortable and worry-free. I wonder if the first 21 years of your life is like that, what do you do when something that mom or dad can’t fix happens to you?
Having realized this, I wondered what I could do. Pull away and let my kids swim in muck while I do nothing? Most definitely not! But what I’m trying to do with my youngest child and my eldest one as well (though a bit belatedly), is teach them from example. Maybe, if their heads are too deep into YouTube while I’m trying to teach them, I say it out loud or send them an email about it.
I’m not beating my own drum by doing this. I’m just showing them how to handle the things that come at them without having to call their parents (um, read: mom) to fix it for them.
I myself learned how to face life’s adversity from my own mom. I watched her battle some pretty tough times without saying much. (Well, she cussed a lot and shouted but she didn’t say much, you know?) She just rolled up her sleeves and mopped up the crap that life gave her. She’d eventually cry or maybe throw something, but I learned how to be strong from her. Ultimately, we learn from our parents’ example.
Whether I realize it or not my kids are learning from mine, too.