Helicopter Mom

Today was Evie’a first day of swimming lessons. She did such a fantastic job and I am so proud of her!! I was really impressed with her instructors–they pushed her right up to the line without crossing it, so she was willing to try even though she seemed a little nervous a couple of times.

That’s Evie sitting next to one of the instructors.

I was not, however, impressed with the other parents. I try really hard not to be bothered by what other people do. I try to mind my own business in situations like this, realizing that my way isn’t the only way and it’s not necessarily the “right” way. I try to avoid criticizing other moms because we women are so hard on each other anyway–we need to stand together, not tear each other down. And let’s be honest: I’m not a perfect parent. Far from it, in fact. Keeping that in mind, one of my mantras is “If they knew better, they would do better” (thanks, Oprah).

But I REALLY struggled today. I had to work so hard to keep a smile on my face and not let my mouth get ahead of me…Because there was this mom. A helicopter mom. It was obvious from the moment we arrived. This woman was there with a brood of kids. She was put together and very particular about, well, everything. A few minutes into the lesson, her son (who was obviously younger than the other kids in the class) started screaming. He was cold. As you can tell from the photo above, we were outside. He fought the instructors, cried, squealed. He was the only kid having a hard time.

His mother, hovering right over him, picked him up and plopped him back in the water. She did this a few times before admitting defeat. After the first time, I just kept thinking that this poor kid just wasn’t ready for swim lessons–that maybe he was just to young or not ready developmentally or whatever. I think it’s our responsibility as parents to recognize when that’s the case and accept it. We learned early during last fall’s soccer season that Evie wanted nothing to do with it, save for plucking weeds off the field and chasing her friends. We encouraged her anyway and got a kick out of watching her wander the field without the least bit of interest. I suppose we could have pulled her from the team, but she enjoyed being with her friends even if she wasn’t crazy about the soccer. My point is that we didn’t make a big deal out of it and we didn’t blame her coaches for her lack of enthusiasm.

So back to today…Rather than acknowledging that her son might not have been ready, this particular mom started telling anyone that would listen how upset she was the class was outside. It should have been held inside, she insisted repeatedly. Now, my daughter HATES being cold. She will go into meltdown mode in 10 seconds if she’s too cold, and it isn’t pretty. But she, as well as the other kids, never complained about the water. After all, the outdoor pool happens to be heated. And maybe I’m just some kind of genius, but since it is summertime, I fully expected the lessons to be in the outdoor pool. Not this mom. She went on and on about how “perturbed” she was (her word), about how the kids were too little for the kind of cold they were experiencing.

Enter another crying child. Turns out this one was hers too. She ditched her lesson and ran across the pool deck to her ranting mother because she realized she was cold too. I know it’s hard to imagine, but this little girl was also the only one from her class crying. This mom complained for the duration of the lesson. When we left, we found her at the front desk, complaining to the staff there and waiting to speak to someone higher up the chain of command. I was so irritated by all of this that at one point, I turned to one of the lifeguards and told her not to worry about it–the rest of the kids were having a great time. I know I should have, but I just couldn’t keep my big mouth shut.

And that’s not all. With 10 minutes left in the lesson, the big kids started to arrive with their parents. Let me emphasize that they were 10 minutes early. We arrived a few minutes early for Evie’s lesson, so I made her stand back with me and wait, watching while the other kids finished. This was Evie’s first lesson, remember? It’s not like I’m there everyday. So I just tried to draw on my knowledge of appropriate social behavior and we waited away from the pool. Not these kids. And not these parents. No.
They swarmed the pool with their parents right behind them. Some of the kids jumped right in and the moms parked themselves in front of those of us already watching our kids’ lesson. One woman literally stood right in front of me. I rearranged, which got her attention, and I (very politely) informed her that our lesson wasn’t over. She was apologetic, but still, I left with a handful of concerns. Oh, and one woman was disappointed that it wasn’t a parent-child class (which she had to interrupt Evie’s class to ask about) and then asked if she could still get in with her kids anyway. We’re talking about kids that looked to be about 8 years old. None of them seemed to have disabilities or delays. In fact, they all seemed eager to get in the pool without their parents. Make that a handful–in each hand.

So I want to know, what happened to common sense? And along those lines, what happened to common courtesy? I can’t blame the kids for their behavior–they don’t know any better–but I can blame the parents, who showed little regard for anyone but themselves. To me, this is about so much more than a couple of cold kids and a group of kids and parents without the ability to read social situations. This is about raising kids with an entitlement complex. This is about not teaching our kids to deal with things that might be uncomfortable or unpleasant. This is about being a teacher and seeing this translate to high school classrooms in the form of students that refuse to try anything that’s too hard and whose parents demand extra credit after their kids never lifted a pencil. This is about parents that do their kids’ work and try to bully teachers into changing grades.

We have a responsibility as parents to teach our kids that the world doesn’t revolve around them. We have to teach them coping skills and social skills. We have to teach them manners. And we have to teach them resilience. Ok, so the water is a little chilly. Now what? Are we going to let it ruin everything or are we going to figure out how to work through it? And if we can’t work through it, do we know how to excuse ourselves so we don’t take away from everyone else’s experience? Do we know how to accept things for what they are rather than blame others for things we don’t like or agree with? And if we don’t know when to back off and let our kids try some things on their own, how will they ever grow up to be independent and confident members of society?

I felt like calling the center this afternoon to express my satisfaction with the swimming lessons. I didn’t–my motivation was all wrong. I would have been doing it just to spite the woman that complained, and that’s not a spiritually or morally healthy thing to do.
Thankfully, Evie seemed to be oblivious–she just enjoyed being in the water and paid no attention to the stuff going on around her. I’m hopeful that tomorrow will be better, and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll still be outside.


2 thoughts on “Helicopter Mom

  1. Amen, sister. AMEN. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, and the primary reason I wanted to teach college instead of high school. Still plenty of entitlement, for sure, but I’ve got the power to ignore it and do what I think is best. If I were teaching high school, I’d have administration and parents breathing down my neck–at a college, I’m legally prohibited from communicating with parents, and admin generally supports faculty who refuse to bow to students’ demands for grade inflation. Generally. 🙂

  2. You have put into words my biggest complaint of people in general. Lack of social skills and self awareness. The inability to see past one’s self and correct their behavior based on how it is effecting other’s around them. As a high school teacher, I at least tried to make kids aware of that kind of stuff in the classroom (careful, of course, not to go over parents’ heads), because it was so evident they were not getting it at home. *Sigh*…one thing I DON’T miss about being in the classroom, but still have to deal with it other parents now. i try not to judge, too, but when behavior is effecting EVERYONE around you negatively, that’s where I draw the line. You’re a better person than me– I would have gushed about the lessons 🙂

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