Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roots and Wings

This morning I saw something that bothered me at my son's school.

We were running late so we went up to the front instead of the drop off. My son was getting out of the car on his own on the other side so he could go straight to the sidewalk without having to be in the parking lot at all, where there were a lot of cars. This other mother ran over and helped him get out of the car, making a big fuss about it.

I was polite about it, but as I drove away, it bugged me.

I hate the way wealthy parents hover over their children, particularly the housewives. I find this very disempowering for children.

My son is nearly 7. He knows how to get out of the car by himself, without fanfare. He knows how to do a lot of things by himself. I encourage him to help around the house every day. He knows how to cook several things mostly on his own (eggs, toast, cookies...) He can get his own cereal in the morning. He has been getting dressed on his own for years.

This is not so different from most of the world, or even my friends who raise their kids on the other side of town. But in my son's school and our surrounding communities, more and more I see mothers doing too much for their kids.

This does not encourage growth.

I noticed about a month ago that the child in my son's class who seems most sure of herself is that one whose mother works. From the looks of it, she has a very successful career. I have never seen her hover and her daughter shines because of it. She is at 6, completely her own person.

I resent the attitude that those of us with money or who have wealthy parents are somehow better than the rest of the world. And I say that because our policies show that. We place more emphasis on the children of the rich - and those with money place more emphasis on their kids. (Or at least the mothers who stay at home do.)

I adore my children, and I can't imagine my life without either of them. But I don't think they are inherently worth more than any other child anywhere else in the world.

There are mothers at our school that volunteer there every day of the week. While this seems nice in and of itself, how is the child developing into their own person with their mother there constantly? Why not volunteer with other children in schools without adequate funding (which includes most schools these days) and really make a difference? Do we really need so many volunteers in a classroom where we are paying $20,000 a year in tuition?

I never see children playing in the street anymore or riding their bikes. We take our kids to every activity and watch them. I think the best I've seen of my son is when we took him camping with the AA group and he was able to freely roam around on his bike. He was never so sure of himself.

I think it's a shame that he can't do this every day. (We live on a hill - and, I am fearful of people texting while driving).

We need stronger families for sure. But there's a quote on my family blog that I love:

"Children need two things: roots and wings."
-Chinese Proverb


  1. This is something I struggle with. I try very hard not to be a "helicopter parent" but it is hard. Having lost a child, it makes it that much harder. The world is so much different than when I was young, though I lived in the country and our only real dangers were marauding cows. I don't know what the balance is, but I sure would like to find it. Some days I do better than others.

  2. I see some of the opposite here on this predominantly rural island. The African-American mothers walk their kids to the bus stop and stay with them until the bus comes and they are safely on board. I don't think that it's just the wealthy mothers who dote. A mother is still a mother regardless of demographics.

  3. Hello Sulalee,

    Boys are an enigma with all of their energy and tricks that they perform.

    It is my husband who taught me how to not be a helicopter mom and now I feel I error in the other direction for if I hovered I would have mini heart attacks every day.

  4. Virginia, I can't even imagine living through what you went through. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope my post did not offend you in any way.

    I define hovering as doing something for their children that they are capable of doing for themselves safely. So if there are mothers at the bus stop with young children or if they are in an unsafe area, then great! I hope all mothers do that. But when you are at the bustop with a 12-year-old in the suburbs, I think that's pushing it.

    I think there are ways to empower our children so that they can grow up and leave the home to be successful on their own. When your children leave the home and don't know how to do their own laundry or cook for themselves (or make their own living), that become problematic, and then we have not done our job as parents.

  5. Sula Lee, your post did NOT offend me in any way. Just sharing my experience. Some days I get it right, or near enough, and some days I don't. I hate the helicopter parent phenomenon and I don't think it's good for anyone, and yet I want to hold on to my babies for as long as I can.