April 27, 2012

"Helicopter parent!" is the favorite fad parenting insult right now, and even though we all know the internet is full of crazy people we should ignore, I'm tired of fucking hearing about it. Can we just move on from this trend already? Here, this is some delightful commentary from an article about how toddlers can easily break their leg on slides if they ride on a parent's lap (ps, apparently don't do that):

(I am annoyed by both the people they are describing AND the commenters. Good job people, you made me hate everything about you. That takes skill.)

The call of 'Helicopter!' is essentially, "you're doing it wrong" and I hate to break the news but that's nothing revolutionary. There have always been overprotective moron parents running around turning their precious flowers into spoiled sissy failures, doing their science fair projects for them and wiping their asses, and there have always been older generations sitting on the sidelines fuming about it.

"Can't kids just WALK to school these days, I walked ten miles in the snow and look I'm FINE. Bike helmets? Car seats? TOUGHEN UP. Video games rot your brain and ruin America. Bottle warmers? In my day we drank the milk straight our of a goat's tit." Repeat infinitely back into history from their parents before them, and before them, and before them. If our ancestors had internet access they would flame us from beyond for not throwing our babies out into the street with some Cholera rags and taking bets on which ones would make it to Christmas. My money is on little Suzie. She looks scrappy.

What confuses me about the outcry against 'helicopter parents' is that there isn't a concrete definition to point to. Sure, I can pull up this one from wikipedia, but in the general lexicon people slap it around so broadly who knows WHAT the hell it means. You watch your kids at the playground? HELICOPTER PARENT. You hold your kid's hand in parking lots? HELICOPTER PARENT. You bubble wrap your coffee table? HELICOPTER PARENT. You chew your kid's food for them? HELICOPTER PARENT. Sometimes I see examples and the definition seems to genuinely apply. Other times, well, I... do... that stuff and wait, that's really for safety, and wait, that's better for cognitive development and– oh crap, does that make ME a helicopter parent?

(Don't worry, according to this quiz I am *not* a helicopter parent. I'm so glad we were finally able to figure that out in ten easy questions, though I lost points for checking that when my child colors I choose to color with them instead of watching from a distance of five or more feet. So beware, if you like to color you're treading on dangerous ground. NO COLORING FOR YOU. I suggest you take this to your local park and start forcing the other parents to fill it out so you can categorize them appropriately. Color-coded shirts are a great first step.)

The vitriol spewed forth about it is so violent that sometimes my only reaction is to cringe and run for cover and I don't even know if they're talking about me. They're so convincing in their general indignation about ALL parents "these days" that one wrong step can catapult you into single-handledly creating everything that's wrong with America. Forget the the culture of fear we've created, the problem is YOU. If only you were more French, you fat American bastards.

No one owns up to being a 'helicopter parent' deliberately because it's solely an insult, unlike some other parenting philosophies. It's supposed to indicate parents who "hover" for no reason, just like all those helicopters that hang around checking out nothing, following citizens down the street at random while they cruise around the playground– wait, I've never seen a goddamn helicopter do that. I do see helicopters when there's an emergency or a news story, and in both cases they've been dispatched to check out a very specific situation that is occurring rather than surveying the area at random just in case. (Also, you know, trying to find criminals on the run, and for really rich people in a hurry. Helicopters- useful! Floaty!)

If helicopter parents behaved like actual helicopters they would be on to something– swoop over when a situation happens and check things out. Which in actuality, sounds a lot like the approach I like to take. Swing out from home base and see what all the fuss is about, provide assistance if needed, retreat. In conclusion: HELICOPTERS ARE PRETTY AWESOME. Also, loud. Be more like them!

I'm not a fan of over-protective parenting. I definitely think it's gotten out of hand like never before in recent years and a lot of people out there could use a good dose of chill the fuck out and let kids be kids. That's always been a problem, and we have plenty of other words we can use to describe it that don't malign the reputation of helicopters and are infinitely more precise. I take issue with running around screaming HELICOPTER PARENT at the drop of a hat and pointing fingers because instead of taking aim in the direction of those who deserve it, they're pulling down their pants and shitting indiscriminately all over the faces of parents who really care and are trying to do the best job they can.

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