It turns out I’m a helicopter parent.
Considering that I used to wake my newborn babies from their immaculate sleep to make sure they were still alive and don’t let them ride the school bus, I guess it shouldn’t come as a shock.
I diagnose my disorder during a Love & Logic® class I took recently in my pursuit of being the calm, happy, supporting and firm-but-loving parent I’ve managed to be for a total of about 47 minutes in 14 years of actually being a parent. I was horrified when our instructor told us that the message we hovering choppers are sending our kids is: “You can’t make it in life without me!”
Ouch. That is a crippling load of furniture to lay on any child, especially when their mother is as capricious as I can be. Have I really been unwittingly suffocating and hogtying my kids all these years?
Well, yeah. And it also turns out that my kids even joke about it with their friends.
“Hey mom,” my daughter says to me the other day in the car. “You know how all my friends think you’re the most overprotective mother ever?” Really? No, I didn’t know that.
“They actually say that?” I asked. “Yeah, but now they’ve met a girl whose mom is even more annoying.”
Oh, what a relief. I’m only the second most irritating mom in town.
Clearly, I need help.
Love & Logic is a parenting philosophy based on encouraging your children to make mistakes while they’re young and when the consequences aren’t as dire. The perfect L&L parent is the one who allows their preschooler to pour her own milk and then, when the milk spills all over the table, onto the floor and down the basement stairs, says, “How lucky you are that you made a mistake! How wise you will become.” Seriously.
Man, this isn’t a learning curve — it’s Everest.
The thing is, L&L makes perfect sense. Children learn from experience and by example. Our job as parents is to keep expectations high, but never ask anything of our kids that we wouldn’t ask of ourselves. Rather than helicopters or drill sergeants, the goal is to be consultants who share the control and give lots of choices.
Yes, yes, yes! It all sounds so easy on paper or when the nice man with the lilting voice in the L&L video does his role-playing. I leave each class feeling absolutely certain that I will easily be able to implement this stuff at home. No problem; I am a new mom. I am a Love & Logician superparent!
Cut to the Snow house the morning after an L&L class. The children are stumbling around sleepily, starting to orient themselves for the day.
“Good morning!” I call perkily from the kitchen, “The mama bus leaves at 7:45. You both know what you need to do to get ready while I make breakfast. Would you guys like eggs or French toast?”
“Eggs or French toast?” I yell this time. I hear mumbling from my son’s room, “... care.”
“What!?” I shout this time, juggling eggs and milk out of the fridge and scrounging around for something — anything — that Charlie will actually ingest for lunch.
Finally my daughter takes pity on me and chooses French toast. Once breakfast is ready, I check on Charlie, who still hasn’t emerged, and find him sitting naked on the floor of his room staring out the window. Really?!
“Charlie, would you like to get dressed or eat first?” I ask.
He answers with what seems to be his new favorite response: “I don’t care.”
This isn’t going according to plan. I’m not supposed to nag or remind him, so I try a different L&L tactic:
“Hey Charlie, children who get dressed quickly for school get jellybeans after school.”
“I don’t even like jellybeans.”
By 7:45, Charlie is fed and dressed but still hasn’t brushed his teeth or hair. Whatever. No more time for choices. “The mama bus is leaving,” I say calmly.
My daughter follows me out complaining about how much she hates school. “How sad for you,” I say, invoking the L&L strategy of empathy, and choking down what I really want to say.
“What do you think you can do to make it better?” I ask, putting the ball in her court, L&L-style.
“I don’t know,” she pouts.
This is the part where I’m supposed to offer a few positive choices from which she is supposed to happily choose and solve her own problem. “Well, maybe you could make a bigger effort to make friends or just try improving your attitude or find something to look forward to,” I suggest.
“No mom, that won’t work,” she scoffs, rolling her eyes.
“OK.” I back off and then drop what I think is the best L&L line of all: “I love you too much to argue.” She looks at me as if a unicorn has suddenly sprung from my forehead.
It’s now 7:48 and there’s no Charlie. What am I supposed to do, leave without him? I go in and he’s wandering around looking for shoes. “We need to go NOW!” I shout, abandoning Love & Logic with hearty aplomb. He ignores me. “Now! NOW!! NOW!!!!!” I think my throat is bleeding.
“OK, OK,” he mumbles.
“Do you have everything you need for school?” I ask.
“Of course,” he sneers. How could I ask such a stupid question? As we get in the car, I realize the beads of sweat on my upper lip are beginning to pool.
When we finally make it to school, we remember that it’s library day and that Charlie has — in fact — forgotten to bring his library books. This means he won’t be able to check out any new books, not even that one he’s had his eye on for weeks.
For some twisted reason, I feel guilty because I forgot to remind him. But Love & Logic says that we shouldn’t remind our kids; they need to remember for themselves, right? After a quick internal struggle, I decide to go home and grab the books for him. I can’t decide what pisses me off more — the fact that I’m failing Love & Logic or that I’m wasting 20 minutes of my life enabling my son to forget stuff for the rest of his life.
Oh, well. You have to walk before you can run, right?