My 10 year old son has spent three weeks preparing to be in a musical.
He has loved the experience and is very excited for the shows.
There are 4 shows over this weekend, each 2 1/2 hours long. The Friday and Saturday night shows start at 7pm. That’s right — 10 hours of shows this weekend.
And we, as parents, are “expected” to go to every one.
What, now? That can’t be right you say. Except that it is, according to the other parents that I spoke with last night. We were chatting during intermission. They were shocked to discover that my husband and I will not be attending tonight’s show. We are sending my 23 year old nephew in our place. “But there’s nothing better than watching my kids do what they love!” One mother said to me.
Now, I don’t want to completely poo poo this comment. I am thrilled that my son is doing something that he enjoys. And I am also happy to see the results and let him know that I am proud of him.
Nothing better than 10 hours of a middle school musical over one weekend? I could think of lots of things that I would rather do with that time. And I don’t believe that going to a yoga class while my son is doing the matinee sends a message that my son is not loved.
But this is where we are today with parenting. It has become a competitive sport.
And on that topic, competitive sports are worse. I have friends who take days off of work to stand on the sidelines for their kids.
They spend money on flights to travel to their 11 year old sons’ lacrosse tournaments. And then sit there and watch them.
And this is standard operating procedure if your kid is good at a sport and wants to compete at a higher level after the age of 10. Somehow you have to come up with this money and spend 12 hours a day every weekend sitting in a lawn chair by a sideline. Anything short of this is somehow absentee parenting. And, your kid will never get into a good college (let alone get recruited for a college team) if you don’t follow this path.
On the other hand.
There are articles and stories galore about the perils of helicopter parenting. Experts define helicopter parenting as:
It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting, — Ann Dunnewold, PhD
Experts tell us that there are consequences of helicopter parenting. They include: decreased confidence, anxiety, a sense of entitlement, and undeveloped life skills.
So the message is not to be too involved in our kids lives, let them make mistakes. But we are supposed to sit on the sidelines and spend hours watching them. Acknowledging their efforts. Instead of letting them be driven by their own internal motivations. To do something because they love it and feel passion for it. Not because they know that mom is watching.
The boundary between helping and helicoptering is somewhat hazy already in our house. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my kids have Learning Differences. This means that I am involved in their school work and their homework more than the parent of a typical child. I used to worry that I was helicoptering. But in our house, its not over controlling, its scaffolding. Supporting them to ultimately reach their own level of independence. At their own rate.
I know how much I help my kids and how much they need from me. And I hope they know how much I love them. Every day and in every way.
But I cannot give in to the peer pressure to give up my entire life for them. I don’t see how this is healthy, for me or for them.
But, I am only one person and can only make my own choices. For the woman who can think of literally nothing better than watching her kids I say, you do you my friend. But let me raise my kids in the way that I see fit, too.