Per Wikipedia, the definition of a helicopter parent is as follows: a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.
I have been called a helicopter parent more than once by friends and by a family member. It certainly wasn’t said in a positive, nurturing way. These people used the term “helicopter parent” as a derogatory term.
A few years ago, Steve and I had been out and a family member was staying with Brandon. When we got home, I asked questions about Brandon’s behavior. Was he good? Did he eat? What did he eat? Did he go to sleep well or did it take a while? The family member was laughing at me and told me that I needed to stop. And then he got quite serious and told me that if I wanted Brandon to succeed, I needed to stop being a helicopter parent.
My answer to that person was “you bet your sweet patootie I am a helicopter parent”. What that person failed to understand (and would not listen to my husband and I) was that the questions we were asking were important. Why? Because we said so! We also needed to know how his behavior was, because at the time, we were tracking it for the behavior therapist. The family member knew this, but didn’t seem to care.
I have to be a helicopter mom. Brandon cannot tell me if something happened at school. He can’t tell me if someone is mistreating him. He can’t tell me if someone visiting our home is making him do things we don’t agree with. I always know were Brandon is. I always know who he is with. If I don’t make things happen for Brandon, who will?
I make the doctor’s appointments, I schedule the meetings with the school and the regional office, I work with the respite worker on when she is coming to our house, I make sure the medicine is given on time and that the school has enough. I make the phone calls to advocacy centers and to governmental offices.
Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, that what one can. –Lin Yutang
This quote hit me like a ton of bricks. I am trying to find the balance now that he is a bit older. I am learning to trust that Brandon will be okay with others.
His support worker, Kelly, had an observation the other day. She was working with Brandon on a puzzle and he kept getting up and jumping and then approaching me. Kelly told me that Brandon seems to always be looking for me to acknowledge him. That was an eye opening statement for me. She is right and bless her for telling me!
So what do I do about that? I have started leaving the house when Kelly is working with Brandon. I will go in our back yard or to a store. Occasionally, I just drive around for 30 minutes. I was sitting in the back yard the other day with my nephew drinking some coffee. I could hear Brandon doing his angry jumping and I started to stand up and go in. And then I stopped. Let Kelly handle it. She is more than capable of dealing with this and I have to stop running to interfere.
When we went to the soccer game with my niece a couple of weeks ago, Brandon was in my face saying “Mario Kart”. My niece (who I was sitting next to) told me to get up and she then told Brandon to sit next to her. I did as I was told and listened to their conversation. There were a couple of times I wanted to jump in and interpret what Brandon was saying for my niece, but I stopped myself. And I listened. Of course, my niece did fine and Brandon did fine and it all was fine.
This past weekend, we went to the same niece’s house for Easter fun and egg hunting with the little ones. Brandon has been to her house before. He has been around all the family that was there. Before we went, I told Steve that I was going to try and not hover over him. These people are family and I trust them. And it went well.
At one point, I had no idea where he was. I asked my great niece (who is 4) if she had seen Brandon. She told me he went outside. I asked which door did he go out. She said the garage door. I jumped up, frantic, since the garage door leads to the front yard, which isn’t fenced. I yelled for Steve that Brandon was in the front yard. Steve, very calmly, said “he is sitting on the back porch. I can see him from here”. Whew!! What did I learn….question the adults in the room, not the 4 year old. LOL!! What did I do? I sat back down and continued playing with my great niece.
I also learned that the adults in the room had Brandon’s back. They all knew where he was. They knew he was safe.
So I am learning when to back off and when to step up. Brandon is 20 years old. He doesn’t always need me to help him or to interpret for him. I have to let him make those family connections on his own. And he is. And I love that. If they have questions, they will ask me.
I also know that Brandon’s last year of school is next year. I will absolutely be a helicopter parent so that he gets the services and supports he needs when he is done with school. I will continue to speak with the regional office on a regular basis. I will continue to talk with his teacher. I will continue to make all his appointments and will schedule all the meetings. And I will continue to fight for his rights as he becomes an adult.
I am trying to find the balance. I don’t always succeed, but I am trying.