Confessions of a Helicopter Parent

Last Word

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  • Written by
    Lissa Kapstrom
  • Illustrated by
    Christine Georgiades

I’m a helicopter parent. At least that’s how the dictionary defines me: a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child. Is that a bad thing? I know my boss would be very happy to know that I take an excessive interest in my job. There’s no shame in giving 100% … OK, 110% … 115% tops. Full disclosure, I’m a type A personality, and I only have one kid.

I was raised very differently from my own child. I came from a house of five kids, three dogs, a hamster, a parakeet, fish and a snake. It was chaos. If my little brother wasn’t dying the dog blue or accidentally shaving his own eyebrows off, my three sisters and I, smeared in our mother’s makeup and wearing ballet tutus on our heads, were jumping on the bed to a Disney soundtrack until one of us was catapulted off. All this inevitably ended in tears. My parents were so tired and distracted that they didn’t know where I was half the time. They never asked me about my grades or worried about my future. It was a different time. Parenting wasn’t a verb. The streets were safe, everyone went to public school, and college was easy to get into. We all could live in the messy moment. Did I mention we kept a small sailboat in the middle of our living room?

Growing up like this, I knew all the things that could go wrong. The memory of my brother riding his Big Wheel into the pool and sinking to the bottom because he wouldn’t let go of his beloved ride while the babysitter screamed was all the parental instruction I needed. He was fine. But with my son, we had a pool cover, swim lessons at 2, and a “no swimming with the babysitter” rule. And I always knew his whereabouts. I didn’t let him play in the street because our neighborhood had no sidewalks, and the kids were strangers because they all went to different private schools. Not to mention the occasional windowless van I saw cruising around. Okay, maybe it was an Amazon delivery, but I couldn’t take a chance. My son had scheduled activities: playdates, piano lessons, karate. And then—due to the fact that it’s become a Herculean challenge to get into college—there was SAT tutoring, piano competitions, chorus, play and jazz band performances, community service, and AP tests. And I was there making sure he arrived on time, met deadlines and practiced. I also had him download the Find Friends app on his phone so in case he flipped his car into a ditch, I would know which ditch.

Some would call me neurotic or overprotective. They’re right. Compared to my parents, I’m not better or worse, I’m just different. My son may not have had the reckless freedom of my youth, but he can come to me with a problem and I’ll listen. He can express an opinion that I don’t agree with and I’ll respect it. He will always know that I’m his biggest cheerleader. If I hover a little that’s because the world these days needs closer watch. And I must’ve done something right because he’s back east in college—happy, thriving, figuring life out. Now it’s me I have to worry about as I miss him and try to find somewhere else to put my 110% … 115% tops.