Meet the 90-year-old Helicopter Parents

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I’m still working on not being a helicopter mom.

In a Boston Globe article called “Meet the Helicopter Parents: These helicopter parents are 90. Their kids? 65,” by Beth Teitell gives a number of hilarious examples of middle-aged grown-ups being helicoptered by their 90-year-old parents:

 

“My mom asked for the phone number of our school board to tell them they keep me out too late at meetings,” @bonitadee tweeted. “I am 57 and a school principal.”

The writer Roxane Gay captured the new reality. “My mom just texted me to curse less on twitter,” she tweeted on April 8. “I said stop stalking me. She said ‘I will not.’ I am 43.”

I too get unsolicited advice from my dad. I probably enjoy it as much as my kids like unsolicited advice from me. It’s not very often, though. And another thing I learned in this article is this: when the advice ends–you’ll be very sad. 

Another point, we are just as much at fault for allowing our parents to helicopter. Most adults don’t stand up to their parents or say anything at all. For example, my daughter has no problem telling me when to stop over-parenting or helicoptering. My son is more polite about it, but he tells me not to worry. “That he’s got it handled.” Me, I say nothing, or try to explain my point of view. Mostly, I view both my mom and dad as leaning to the “free-range” spectrum of parenting, rather than helicoptering.

Here’s more from the article:

Welcome to 2018, when people are living so long that baby boomers, the original helicopter parents, have helicopters of their own.

A growing number of middle-aged folks — accustomed to directing their teenagers and young adults’ lives — are also on the receiving side of the equation. In today’s world, you’re never too old to be somebody’s baby.

In 2012, 53.7 percent of people aged 55-59 had at least one parent living, compared with 43.6 percent in that same age group in 1992, according to Ashton Verdery, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.

Relationships between adult children who are 65+ and parents who are 90 and up are new enough that the National Institute on Aging is funding a study.

Kathrin Boerner, the principal investigator of the “Aging Together Study,” and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said she was surprised at the amount of advice and support that flows “downstream,” from very old parents to senior adult children.

1915364_1296704101497_7996135_nAre you an adult with helicopter parents? What do you say when they give you unsolicited advice?

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Too much stuff and too much help makes adulting tough for our kids

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Back when I was young with my big brother.

 

I found an interesting article on a website called Moneyish, which by the way is filled with interesting articles by a group of writers who happen to be women with backgrounds writing for the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Media Group and other major publications like the New York Daily News and Seventeen magazine. The article I read today was called, “Overindulging kids makes their adulthoods harder, research shows” by Erica Pearson. She interviewed an overindulgence expert, Jean Illsley Clarke, age 93, who grew up as a “Post World War II Depression Kid” and had a very different childhood than kids today.

Here’s are a few excerpts and I think it’s worth reading the whole article here:

Overindulgence expert Jean Illsley Clarke tells Moneyish how teaching kids to fend for themselves makes them successful adults.

Too much stuff, too much help, too little structure — it’s a trap that leads well-intentioned parents into making life as a grownup hard for their kids.

Jean Illsley Clarke, the country’s foremost expert on childhood overindulgence — and its pitfalls — has a fresh, vested interest in helping millennial parents rein things in as they start families of their own: a brand new great-grandson, the first great-grandbaby in her family.

“I haven’t intruded anything yet. But I will!” she admitted, sitting down to talk to Moneyish in her mid-century modern Minnesota home a few weeks before her 93rd birthday.

Millennials, known for their overscheduled childhoods overseen by helicopter parents, may be the most overindulged generation yet — but there’s still hope that they won’t repeat their parents’ mistakes, Clarke believes.

“When people finally get it, how damaging this is, they’ll take action,” she said.

Her research shows that being overindulged as a kid has been linked to an inability to delay gratification, a lack of gratitude and self-control, and an increase in materialistic values as an adult. “Too many things results in lack of respect for things and people. Doing things for our children that they should be doing themselves results in helplessness and lack of competence. Lack of structure results in irresponsibility,” she said. “What we found in our big study was that nobody said ‘thank you’ to their parents, but the word ‘resent’ came up often.”

Clarke still thinks about a woman who told her that she didn’t do chores as a child and had never done laundry when she got to college. “She went to her roommates and said, ‘Which is the washer, and which is the dryer’? And they ridiculed her. And she made a very unfortunate decision. She decided she would never ask for help again. So her college years were not happy ones,” she said.

A self-described “World War II, Depression kid,” Clarke felt that she didn’t know much about overindulgence, just that it hadn’t been her own experience. She couldn’t find any research studies that adequately tackled the subject, so teamed up with fellow parenting expert Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft, a now-retired Concordia University professor, to study it on their own.

Eventually, parents started coming up to her during workshops to ask, “I want to know if I’m doing it.”

Through their research, Clarke and her collaborators discovered that overindulgence of some sort was happening at all income levels, and that it has serious consequences — serious enough that she grew to consider it a form of neglect.

They also found that “spoiling” is about much more than just stuff — while too many clothes or toys isn’t a good thing, it isn’t as damaging as doing too many things for kids that they should be doing for themselves.

 

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My mom and dad grew up with one of these to wring out clothes.

 

I think about the childhood my parents had compared to mine, and then again versus our kids’ generation. My parents began life before every household had a washing machine and dryer, or refrigerators. Mom told me about the ice man who delivered ice for the “icebox.” Clothing was washed on a washing board, and then there was some strange contraption that you’d run through the clothes to wring them out before they were hung out on the lines to dry. Mind you, these aren’t my memories, but my mother’s. Because nothing was automated like it is today, their lives as kids involved a whole lot more work around the house.

I do remember we would hang the wash out in the backyard, too. We had a pole in a cement circle that had arms extending with lines going around in a circle like a big spider web. I remember the wooden clothes pins I’d play with while my mom spun the clothesline around to hang up our laundry. We did have a washer and dryer, but she preferred to hang clothes outside in the spring and summer. 

 

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This is what the clothesline looked like in our backyard.

In comparison to my kids’ generation, I had less homework than they did in middle school and high school. Also, I had a ton of chores, which my kids didn’t have.  My mom was a firm believer that busy kids stayed out of trouble. But if the chores were done, most of my time away from school was unstructured. I had a lot of hours to read, sit outside and watch the clouds pass by. My childhood was very different than my kids, who grew up on a competitive swim team with practices six days a week, and hours and hours of homework each night. I didn’t burden them with chores and perhaps I should have.

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At the time, I thought my kids were too busy with swimming and homework to have many chores.

What do you think of the advice from “overindulgence expert” Jean Illsley Clarke? Is doing too much for our kids just as bad as giving them too much?

Six complaints millennials have about their parents

 

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My two cuties.

“What Millennials Say About Their Parents During Therapy” in the HuffPost, written by Brittany Wong, lists six of the most common complaints—and they’re all about parents.

“We went from a parent-focused society to a child-focused society, and this generation are the products of this flux in our parenting focus,“ Deborah Duley, a psychotherapist and founder of Empowered Connections, a counseling practice told HuffPost. “As a result, I hear consistent complaints that their parents are micromanaging their lives to the point of it being suffocating and overbearing.”

Duley and other therapists across the country share more parent-related complaints they hear from clients in their 20s and 30s.

The number one problem is helicopter parents who don’t allow their kids to grow and develop into independent adults.

“You know there’s a problem when the mother of a 28-year-old calls to schedule a therapy consultation for her son. Parents of millennials are notoriously helicopter parents, which inhibits young adults from becoming independent and learning to solve their own problems.” ― Tara Griffith, a therapist and founder of Wellspace SF, a San Francisco community of licensed therapists, nutritionists and certified coaches.

The other points listed include:

2. I feel like a failure by my parents’ standards.
3. My parents don’t think I need therapy.
4. My parents have become helicopter grandparents.
5. My parents are overly involved in my financial life.
6. My parents didn’t teach me how to navigate negative emotions.

I thought those are very interesting complaints, especially because I have two kids in their 20s. I wonder if my kids feel I have been too involved? Am I too involved in their financial lives? Do they feel like failures? I wonder if I taught them how to deal with negative emotions? I’ll have to ask them and I’ll report back on what they say. Maybe—if it isn’t too awful.

Back to the basics of parenting, it’s not helpful to do too much for our kids while they’re young. They’ll learn more from their mistakes and failures than us picking up after them, packing their lunches, doing their laundry, waking them up for school, and running back to school with forgotten homework. It’s a temptation to have every day perfect for our kids, but then they’ll be unprepared for when life isn’t perfect. Also, they may feel insecure or incompetent because they don’t think they can manage on their own without mom.

 

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Despite my helicoptering, they’re growing into wonderful adults.

What are your thoughts about these six complaints millennials have about their parents?

 

A Free-Range Parent Talks About the Free-Range Utah Law

 

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My son having play-time at the beach.

 

If you read parenting news and blogs like I do, you’ve probably read that a new law in Utah that goes into effect in May, allows parents to stop being helicopters. A Wall Street Journal article called “Parents, You Can Stop Helicoptering” is written by Lenore Skenazy, the woman who let her 9-year-old child ride the subway alone in New York.

Here are some excerpts from her opinion piece:

“If you send your kid out to play in the park for an hour, or buy a carton of milk, or even walk to school, guess what? If you’re in Utah, you won’t get arrested for negligence. Woo hoo!

“You don’t have to worry about a trial, fines, mandatory parenting classes, jail time or even losing custody, all thanks to a new law passed unanimously by the Utah Legislature and signed this month by Gov. Gary Herbert. It goes into effect in May. It’s called the Free-Range Parents Law, named after the movement I started, Free-Range Kids.

“I’m the New York mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone and wrote a column about it for the late, great New York Sun. That was 10 years ago April 1 (and no, it wasn’t a joke). Two days later I found myself on NBC’s “Today” show, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and National Public Radio. The hosts all asked the same question: “But Lenore, how would you have felt if he never came home?”

“Well, I did have a spare son at home. But seriously, that very question was the reason parents were going crazy with worry. Paranoia about abduction by strangers—among the rarest of crimes—was the whole reason kids were being supervised every second. The No. 1 cause of death for children is car accidents. Yet you don’t hear talk-show hosts saying: “Oh my God, you drove your son to the dentist? How would you have felt if you got T-boned by a truck?”

“I started the Free-Range Kids blog the weekend after the media firestorm, to explain that I am all for safety. I love helmets, car seats, seat belts. If you’re having a baby, my shower gift is a fire extinguisher. But I let my son go out into the big wide world without me because that’s what kids, certainly 9-year-olds, have been doing since the beginning of time.”

Her article goes on to describe hair-raising scenarios where 911 was called and Child Protective Services showed up at homes when a parent let their kids be alone for five minutes or less—or play outside the house 150 feet away. In one story, a mom went into a Starbucks and let her girls sit in their van. A police officer greeted her and threatened to take the kids away when she returned three minutes later. The next day, Child Protective Services showed up at their house and demanded a doctor examine the children for signs of abuse.

Here’s what Skenazy wrote about the law in Utah:

“The Utah law redefines neglect to exclude letting kids walk to school, play outside, remain briefly in a vehicle under certain conditions, stay at home as a latchkey kid, or engage in any “similar independent activity.” It adds that children should be of “sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm,” which could leave the door open for overzealous officials. But clearly the law leans in the direction of giving Free-Range parents the benefit of the doubt.

“In America, we keep talking about how we need to raise a generation of kids who are smart, resilient problem-solvers ready to take on the chaotic, robotic economy ahead. We can’t do it by standing always by their side, solving all their problems.

“It is not negligent to believe our kids are ready for the childhood independence that made us who we are. It is negligent to deprive them of it.”

Isn’t it a shame that our children aren’t allowed the same freedom we had as kids? I never let my kids walk to the park or wander around the block alone when they were young. When I was young, we were outside if the weather allowed it. We rode our bikes around and went in and out of neighbor’s houses. I remember going to the Schutt’s house (they had teenagers who babysat us–and a horse named Snoopy.) I loved hanging out in the girls’ rooms and seeing their cool clothes, make-up and hairstyles. Their mom always gave us a cookie or popsicle, too.

My kids never had that life. We did have a child kidnapped from his front yard in a nearby town when my kids were little and it scared me to death. His body eventually was found. That one incident had a profound effect on my parenting.

I let my kids play at the park or beach, but we moms would be gathered on a blanket chatting and watching while they played. They also had their space at the pool, where they went six days a week for practice with a great group of kids. The park, beach and the pool allowed a little bit of freedom for them to explore and be with other kids, without us constantly hovering—although we were there on the sidelines ready to helicopter at a moment’s notice.

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Freedom to play at the beach.

 

What are your thoughts about society today not allowing kids any freedom? Do you agree with the new law in Utah?

 

Low Self Esteem: A Side Effect of Helicopter Parenting

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Practicing to be superheroes.

Helicopter parents are all around the world these days. I thought of it as a United States phenomenon, but after reading this article from the Times of Oman (which is between Yemen and Saudia Arabia—I looked it up) I realized helicopter parents are everywhere.

Written by Farzeen Ashik, author of the prize-winning novel ‘Rainbow Dorm Diaries-The Yellow Dorm’ “The Hard Truth About Helicopter Parenting” spells it out simply and effectively:

 

The hard truth about helicopter parenting

Have you heard about helicopter parenting? As parents, we want the best for our kids. It almost seems like we keep wanting to raise the bar, so we turn into Supermoms and Superdads. But in the process, do we end up becoming a bit over-protective, aggressive, pushy, or overconcerned? Don’t think so? Let’s take a quick, hard look then. Are you the one finishing your child’s homework and school projects? Is it ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your child’s deadlines are met and work is submitted on time or even that the school bag has the right books for the lessons the next day? Do you take it as a personal affront if your child gets a low grade and get an immediate itch to send an email to the teacher about it? Do you pack your teen’s lunch box and iron his/her uniform? Does your child look at you when someone asks him/her about what he/she wants to do when he/she is older? A whole lot of parents will nod reluctantly. Let’s face the fact that we are a generation of helicopter parents. So, what is helicopter parenting? The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Between Parent and Teenager, by teens, who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011. There might be a whole section of readers who strongly believe that they are doing nothing but their duty as good parents to be so involved in the lives of their children. The fact that there could be such a thing as over-involvement does not even occur to them. But as parents, don’t we also have a responsibility to make sure our kids grow up making their own little mistakes and facing their challenges and fears? Here are some reasons why you should stop hovering over your children.

Low self-esteem

If you are constantly around then your children will get used to turning to mommy or daddy for all the answers. Not only that, they will start losing confidence in themselves and their instincts. Every time they make a decision, they will feel the need to run to you and check whether they are right. That’s because your constant presence sends out the signal that you don’t trust their judgement.

Lower adaptability

Kids today will be adults tomorrow and before you know it, they will be out there battling it on their own. They have to graduate, get jobs, find partners, and finally raise their own children. Looking at your gawky teenagers now and imagining them doing all that will certainly seem remote to you but you have to start envisioning them doing things by themselves. Give them opportunities to adapt to different scenarios and challenges. Else, they will be misfits in the real world.

I know I did too much for my kids. I was trying my best, but I wanted to make sure they didn’t fail. I was constantly in their classrooms talking to teachers about assignments and tests. I emailed coaches or met to let them know if my child wasn’t being treated fairly. I helped with homework. I found new teaching methods when I didn’t think their teacher was up to snuff. Today, when I hear my son give himself horrible self-talk, I wonder if I am the cause of it? Was it because I pampered him? I reread the part of the article about low self-esteem, and I did trust my kids’ judgment. I wonder if they knew that? Did I make it clear? I have enough self-doubt on my own that maybe it can be spread like a cold and they caught it from me. 

In any case, my daughter made the comment that negative self-talk is very common. I listened to a webinar by David Benzel, a sports parenting expert, focus on self-talk. He said we can stop our kids when we hear negative self-talk and help them rewire what they say to themselves. I think it’s worth getting out his parenting book “From Chump to Champ” and rereading the chapter on self-talk.

robkatwaterWhat do you think the pitfalls of helicopter parenting are?

My Son Wrote About His Crazy Mom for a School Project

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“I had no idea your life was so difficult and that your mom was so ‘crazy.’ Your senior project made me cry.”

I found these words scrawled in a handmade card to my 18-year-old, valedictorian son, wedged next to the front seat of my car.

I couldn’t breathe. Then I howled. My beautiful first born. The little pee wee with the stocking cap and button nose who stared at me with huge eyes the day he was born. The toddler with white blond curls who called me “Sweetheart.”

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This stranger living in my house made his senior project about me? The horrors of living with me? After everything I had done for him? Years filled with volunteering as a room-mom, midnight trips to the ER for his asthma, driving to the Getty for field trips, opening our house for movies nights and spaghetti feeds. Me?

A friend with older kids warned me that the senior year “can be kind of tough.”

No kidding! I never dreamed how hard. I found myself at odds with this person, who used to be my best friend. I alternated between yelling, cajoling and pleading with him to finish college applications, meet countless deadlines and study for exams. No wonder he called me crazy.

The stress of applying for college proved to be filled with potholes, no, make that sinkholes — the kind that swallows entire houses and families. What to declare as a major, where to live, what to write for a personal statement are enough to stress out the calmest kid.

So what else makes applying to college so awful?  Try these numbers on for size:

• More than 3,000,000 high school seniors apply to college in the US — never mind the ones throughout the world trying to get into our top schools!

• The number of students who apply to seven or more colleges has grown from 9% in 1992 to 29% in 2011. 

• Yale’s applications doubled from 2002 to this year, topping 30,000.  Yale accepted roughly 2,000 in 2013.

• Harvard has nearly 35,000 applicants, 2029 admitted in 2013.

• The number of applicants for University of California Santa Barbara in 2013 was 62,413, They had 4,550 in the freshman class last year.

• UCLA is one of the most applied to schools in the country, with nearly 100,000 applicants, and they admit 15,000.

Between December and graduation, my son received eight out of nine college rejections –further making him love me, hate me, turn to me in need, and then reject me again. I could do nothing to help his torment. In the end, he accepted admission to his one school.

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Hang in there moms of juniors and seniors. When it seems like there is nothing you can do to help, take a deep breath.  Be there for support and offer advice if they ask for it. Love them, even if they are undeniably rude. Forgive yourself if you lose your temper.

I believe our kids take out their fears and frustrations on those they love most.

I am happy to report that two years later, the stranger living in my son’s skin has disappeared. I have a son who calls me the moment he finishes a final that he knows he’s crushed. He calls to ask how to cook chicken stir fry.  And he calls to say he loves me.

Photos: (top) My son during graduation. (second) a beautiful baby, (above) my son when he was at the age when he thought my name was “Sweetheart,” and (below) a view of my son’s university. Not too shabby, after all.

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No Parents Allowed!


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This week, while I am recovering from surgery, I am reposting some of my earliest blog posts. Enjoy! I’ll try to make it back to work next week.

I was sitting outside a roped off area with a sign posted “No Parents Allowed” at a three-day swim meet in LA with close to 1,400 swimmers.

“But, I HAVE to get my son this bottle of water,” a mom begged the volunteer parent wearing a neon orange vest, who was in charge of guarding the entrance to the “swimmer’s only” area.

“ARE YOU PROMISING TO GET MY SALLY TO HER EVENT ON TIME? I’M HOLDING YOU ACCOUNTABLE!” another mother yelled with her finger wagging in the face of the orange-vested volunteer. The mom was shaking in frustration and anger.

I sat calmly by — watching, observing, and remembering  —  that was me. Not the yeller, but the one pleading. My daughter is 18 and going off to college next fall. She’s been a swimmer since age five.

Helicopter after helicopter mom argued and pleaded with the volunteers, who are swim parents themselves, on how they’d just be a second to find their child, bring them water, lunch, or make sure they made it to their event.

I wanted to tell them “RELAX!” If their swimmers had made it this far, to the season’s championship meet, they’re going to be okay. Calm down, let them hang out with their friends and teammates. They’ll be fine and will survive. After all, I had just made it through watching my daughter swim the mile. I didn’t get up once and scream, “GO!” which I have done at every flip turn for the past 15 years. If I can calm down and let go — you other moms can too!

And — if they don’t drink enough water, or miss their event — they might actually learn from it.

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Here are 10 great things to remember as a parent of children in any sport. It’s from USA Swimming.

10 COMMANDMENTS FOR SWIM PARENTS

I. Thou shall not impose thy ambitions on thy child.

II. Thou shall be supportive no matter what.

III. Thou shall not coach thy child.

IV. Thou shall only have positive things to say at a competition.

V. Thou shall acknowledge thy child’s fears.

VI. Thou shall not criticize the officials.

VII. Thou shall honor thy child’s coach.

VIII. Thou shall be loyal and supportive of thy team.

IX. Thy child shall have goals besides winning.

X. Thou shall not expect thy child to become an Olympian.

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More handy tips can be found at USA Swimming’s page for parents.

FYI, the top photo of my daughter’s relay team was taken by a 12-year-old teammate, who obviously can make it to her events, stay hydrated, swim fast, and take great pics! The second photo is my daughter 12 years ago. The last photo was taken from the “parents only” section of the East LA College pool.

Video of my daughter’s 400 free relay from TAKEITLIVETV from Feb. 17.