This week Good Morning America showcased three teenagers as the proud products of three distinct parenting styles: a girl cub of a "tiger mom", the boy has a "helicopter mom" hovering over his shoulder and the last girl is the result of a "hippie mom". All three are straight A students, seemingly well adjusted and staunch defenders of their parents. In short, they do a mom proud. It is obvious that people can learn a few things about child rearing by listening to what these teens are saying. But, people are apparently asking themselves, which way is best?
I know exactly which category I fall under. Please, excuse the noise. It's just the sound of my propellers spinning at warp speed. Now, I can't speak to the motivation of that mother from the morning show, but I know that a large part of my parenting technique does, in fact, stem from fear. And, I know right when the fear set in. It happened the moment the nurse's aide plopped my newborn son in my lap and said, "Hold on. I'm going to wheel you out to the curb where your husband is waiting with the car." As we rode the elevator down to street level I held my baby in my arms and questioned the judgement of the medical staff. How could they just turn me loose with this baby? What had happened to all their supposed higher learning? Shouldn't they know better?
Some of the fear stemmed from the fact that it seemed unbelievable this baby was here and in my arms. We had been through two and a half years of infertility treatments, a difficult pregnancy and his early arrival by about a month. Top it all off with the fact that at ten weeks he quit breathing, turned purple and was admitted into Children's Hospital and the poor, little fellow's fate was sealed. He never stood a chance. Many is the time I've stood over his sleeping form, marveling at his angelic little face and thinking, "Boy, do I hope you have a lot of insurance when you grow up. The amount of therapy you are going to require by the time I'm done with you will be outrageous."
So, I'm a helicopter mom. I meddle in his life, monitor his movements about the neighborhood, and forbid certain video games. It's frightening to send my heart and soul out into the world and not serve as a buffer from any cruelty that could be waiting around the corner for him. When he was being bullied on the bus ride home from school my first instinct was to grab a claymore or broadsword, storm the bus and challenge the tormentor with a, "Who's the poopie pants now, Mister?!" My husband convinced me that this would be wrong. And also, we are not living in medieval Scotland and I am not a Highlander warrior with an arsenal of weapons back at the castle.
As a parent it is difficult to know when to step back and let life's lessons happen or when to step forward and act as a shield. Do you demand straight A's, or declare the whole grading system a stupid idea? I certainly have no answers. All I can do is try my best and keep moving forward. Isn't that what any parent does? The harshest critic I will ever face will be my own son one day. My best hope is that he is kind when rating my performance.