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Helicopter Parents Are Just Lazy
February 11, 2013

That's my theory, anyway.

I've read the articles by Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic and on Motherlode about how we are intellectually and developmentally hobbling our kids by doing too much for them, and I absolutely agree with everything they've said.

And I'm guilty of these exact habits. Why? Because, ultimately, I'm lazy. Or rushed. Or tired. I came to this realization when, after being in a mode where I always quickly put on my three-and-a-half-year old's shoes so we can stream out the door and get to whatever schedule we were already late for, one of his preschool teachers approached me at pick-up and said, "We're trying to teach [Bug] that he can dress himself. He's gaining confidence."

I simply adore the teachers at my son's school. I wholeheartedly love the way they really do know everything (well, way more than me, anyway) and even know just how to correct my flails at parenting by gently bringing me up short, but not calling me out. Of course I've been doing all the dressing and washing and brushing; it's easier and faster. It's easier and faster because I know how to do it, and he doesn't.

It's far too easy for me to see how dressing my son, brushing his teeth, cleaning up his toys, can snowball into completing his science projects, writing his college essays for him, and haranguing his college professors if he's unhappy with his grades. Because it's just so much easier if I do it. Actually slowing down and making a concerted, patient effort to teach him how to do put on his pants himself is what's hard. Suffering through the "I CAN'T DO IT!" tears and tantrums while looking at the clock and realizing how much time we would have saved if I had just done it all myself, that's what's difficult.

That's also what it means to be a parent. Yes, you are there to help and guide and ease, but being a good parent also means recognizing that at some point you have to take a step back and let your children shift for themselves. If you've done your job -- and let your kids' teachers do their jobs -- your kid will be self-sufficient and have gained a lifelong confidence that comes from that self-sufficiency. If you haven't done your job, you'll be calling your kids' employers to negotiate their salaries. And what was once a far-fetchted situation, exaggerated for comic effect in Everybody Loves Raymond is now a reality.

Now think hard before you answer this, do you really want to be doing that? If you answered yes, and I hope to god you didn't, then let me ask you another: do you really think people will want to work with your kid if they're so incapacitated by life that you need do that?

Letting our kids go and do for themselves is something we all -- in varying degrees of intensity -- struggle with emotionally, because it means they're growing up. We have to let them grow up. Yes, we'd all love to seal them in amber and keep them forever at an age where we are their entire world, because it's a world of spontaneous hugs and "I love you"s, of tiny, dimpled hands surrounded by our larger, protecting ones. But it's a futile, selfish desire. It's far less selfish to come to grips with our children being their own person who needs to live their own life and do things for themselves. They cannot stay our babies forever.

As parents, we have to be stronger than we are. We have to stop being lazy.

Photo by Jennifer Maiser, 2011

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Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic