We had a few busy days with our son, his girlfriend and one of her sisters. They stayed with us for a long weekend in our new home. It was their first time to see our house and thankfully they seemed to really like it! That’s a relief, because when we sold our home of 28 years, my children threatened to never visit us again. We had great meals together, shared laughs, went for walks and hikes. We watched the sunset, the wildlife and toured the nearby town and farmer’s market. They drove from our house to the Grand Canyon for their first ever glimpse. They called the Grand Canyon life changing.
Now that they’ve returned to the Bay Area, I miss them. It felt so normal to have them here. My house and heart were full. I’m left alone with my husband — and thankfully our 10-year-old cat who is increasingly cuddly and entertains me with her antics.
I wrote this when my son graduated college and was starting in his adult career. I realized I had lost control over his life choices and it was time for me to let go.
As an empty nester, there are times I wish I had more control over my kids’ lives. I don’t have much anymore. I remember the days when they’d actually do what I asked them. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and what books to read.
They watched the movies I’d check out from the library, and because I picked them out, they loved them. One day my son asked, “Mom, do they make movies without singing and dancing?” Yikes. I guess I was a little too into the classic musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to share that part of Americana. Many millennials never learned the words to On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe from “The Harvey Girls.” My aunt was surprised while visiting us when my son invited her to watch a movie. She was expecting Disney or Barney. She was thrilled to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” with him.
Somewhere along the line of those perfect days, I lost control. Today, my kids have their own opinions about religion, politics, and life in general that aren’t exactly the same as mine. For example, I want to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I send him job openings in the Bay area, where he’s currently living. (FYI, We don’t want him to live that far away. We don’t like how expensive it is. It’s all wrong to us.)
Does he listen? He’s polite. Every time I text an employment opportunity, he thanks me and says, “that’s a good idea.” Then he goes and applies to one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores are 2 in math and 7 in English. He decides to teach instead of what I want him to do—and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thinks it will be a challenge.
I can’t stop him. He’ll have to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So, I guess I need to learn to let go since I’ve lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.
UPDATE: The teaching career ended and our son went into business jobs. He’s loving the job and company he’s working for and also wants to pursue a masters degree in data science. We’ve tried to stay out of his decisions and only offer advice when he asks. He’s making a great life without us telling him what to do! Imagine that?
What is your reaction when your kids make choices you disagree with?
It’s my son’s 26th birthday. I look back on how quickly a quarter century plus one year has slipped by, literally in the blink of an eye. This year, I’ll be visiting my son in the Bay area in a couple days. I’m also speaking to a team in Nor Cal about all things swim parenting! My son is going with me to my talk, as my chauffeur and support team. It’s kind of a role change where I’ll be counting on him to help me.
I’ll never forget when I first held him in my arms. It was an amazing feeling looking at the little knit-capped baby with the upturned nose and bright blue eyes. I knew him. It was like we were already connected and I knew him through my dreams or from another day and age. I remember overhearing the doctor and nurses saying that we were “bonding very well.” No kidding!
The trip home from the hospital, which is all of four or five blocks, was one of the scariest rides of all time. It started with a nurse wheeling me out to the car, where my husband stood by to help us in. We struggled with the car seat, not having ever worked one before. Then the nurse told me she was usually stationed in cardiology and unfamiliar with the new women’s and infant center that had opened a few days before I was there. She held my swaddled son and tripped over the curb, while I watched helplessly from the wheelchair as the little being flew into the air. Fortunately, my husband was a football player and leaped and caught Robert firmly.
After that, we drove home going five miles per hour. It was the scariest realization that we were responsible for another human life. What on earth were we thinking? Who was giving us this responsibility? What did we know about raising a human being? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
He was and is a loving and kind person. I used to take him to “Mommy and Me” classes at the City’s Pavilion and at the Francis Stevens Park close to our house. I relearned “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” during those days. We’d socialize with other moms and toddlers, who became lifelong friends. At the end of each class, my son would walk up to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was a total love bug.
My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.
There’s a new study out from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.
I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.
To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.
I earned Terra Firma.
My two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.
I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.
When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.
Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.
Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous everyday they left for the park.
Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.
Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.
My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.
I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.
I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.
My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.
Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests.
As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.
How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?