Image by lorda via Flickr
Recently, I saw a couple of articles lamenting the helicopter parents. I am anything but a helicopter parent, though sometimes I wish I had been at times. There are things I look back on now, like the beginnings of Geeky Boy’s struggle with homework. Work for both Mr. Geeky and I was too overwhelming for us to intervene much, except to ask whether it was done or not. Perhaps I should have insisted someone be home when he got home. Instead we checked in via home, and came home as early as possible. I didn’t call teachers, though I did touch base with a counselor at one point to try to help Geeky Boy with organization. I feel, rightly or wrongly, that the habits we’re trying to break now were a result of our lack of intervening–either with Geeky Boy himself or with the school.
Some people have said to me, “just crack the whip, force him to buckle down.” Or some such severe discipline. I sigh. Been there. Doesn’t work. Instead, we get a kid with an even bigger ball of stress to deal with. And, frankly, he’s his own person. There are some things that can’t be forced. But we’re talking about it now. I just wish we’d started sooner.
I don’t remember ever having to be told how to deal with school. My parents were really laid back about everything to do with grades, etc. When boys and alcohol caused my grades to plummet, they just assumed things were getting harder, especially math. I lived the kind of life Samantha Bee writes about in the WSJ. I came home, did my homework (which often only took about an hour), and then vegged in front of the tv. Sometimes I read or wrote or called people on the phone (a landline even!). But it was very leisurely. And summer, aside from a two-week vacation, I spent most of it at the pool. I did no academic camps or music camps or sports camps, though I did have a few friends who did. I just wasted that good at sports, and music wasn’t my thing. And yes, I was college bound and smart, but my parents didn’t try to groom me to be a NASA scientist. I consider myself a late bloomer when it comes to figuring out what to do with my life, to finding something that I really like doing and that pays the bills to boot. I keep that in mind when I see where Geeky Boy is.
Yes, some parents around here send their kids to academic camps at UPenn or Johns Hopkins or they’re in soccer camp or lacrosse camp or tennis camp. Some kids are booked the whole summer. We just don’t have the resources for that. Yes, it’s been difficult keeping the kids busy. We’ve gone to the pool. I’ve encouraged reading and writing. I’ve assigned chores. But summer days are long, and there’s only so much structured activity anyone can do. And while I may have my regrets, I’m not so sure my “cracking down” or scheduling more for the kids would have made them any better off. I think all of us would have been a bit less happy (and certainly poorer). And I think the payoff for some of those things is short term–it gets you into the. best. college. Except when it doesn’t. Only time will tell how things will turn out. Which is kind of the sucky thing about parenting. Feedback comes really slowly.