Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Helicopter or Drone?

By now school is back in session for everyone. The last wave started either yesterday or today following the Labor Day holiday. My kids started last week. My wife, this week.

The first day of school is marked by parents taking extra pictures while frantically making sure their child has everything ready. A certain type of parent, the "helicopter parent", will even follow their child to school to make sure they get in the right classroom, get along with the right kids, and do all the "right" things. They watch to make sure Johnny isn't picked last when teams are drawn up for kickball and make sure Sally is called on first when she raises her hand in class.

The name, helicopter parent, comes from the image of these parents hovering over their children in every facet of their day. I want to add another type of parent to our nomenclature- the drone parent (more catchier than UAV parent, I think). This parent also hovers, but not as close. Like an un-piloted drone, they hover high up where they can't be seen, but are constantly on surveillance.

I admit, I'm a drone parent. We followed our children to school, took all the pictures, hugged each maybe just a little too long and watched as they went off to their class. But we didn't leave. We stood back and we watched. How would our son respond to his new teacher? Which of his best friends are back after the summer and will be in his class? Unlike helicopter parents, who have a reputation of control, drone parents simply stand back and watch and respond to the data they receive.

But even that is too much. Watching other parents drop their children off last week- some helicopter, some drone, some "bombers" (drop the kids off and fly away)- it occurred to us that it didn't matter how close we stayed or how much we watched. As other parents commented on which teacher was the best (and of course, their child had to be in that class) and which children were the worst, we realized that it all really doesn't matter. Yes, it is important that our children receive a quality education. Yes, there are certain kids and some demographics that are obstacles to learning. But we are not dropping off our children to never see them again. They may spend more of their waking hours at school, but it is ultimately at home where they will learn the most. One teacher or one bad apple child in the first grade will not change the ultimate fate of my child.

So the drone has to fly back to base. We have to let them go. We have to trust that God is in control.


Peter P said...

For once, I actually disagree with you on your conclusion.

I think that we, like God, should be drones.

The idea of UAV's is to be able to monitor from a distance without constantly interfering.

God watches over us, so he can give us a nudge or course correction when we're messing up and it needs to be the same for us with our kids.

We have recognized that we need to be aware of what is going on in our kids's lives at school because sometimes there are problems which aren't getting dealt with that they don't tell us about and sometimes there are 'problems' that they do tell us about which aren't really problems at all, they're all in the little darlings' imaginations.

We take a UAV flyby every now and then just to keep tabs on what's happening so we can do our jobs as parents and help build them and guide them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Peter, I actually fight to be a drone so that I'm not a helicopter parent. SurrenderIng my kids is difficult especially because our son has very specific needs. Thanks Frank!! Good analogies. Rosa

Fatha Frank said...

Ok, Peter, you got me! It's about time someone around here disagrees with me! (j/k)

I was actually expanding my post to talk about how God watches over us when I realized I was contradicting myself.

You're right. I failed in my analogy. I mixed the point of taking responsibility in the home over trying to control the school with trusting God will take care regardless of teacher, classmates, school, etc.

The bottom line issue I was trying to raise was that of being controlling. I guess a high altitude drone isn't controlling (unless it's dropping guided bombs on a target!).