Friday, July 1, 2011

Are we "too-detached" or "helicopter" parents?

Every time I hear the media decrying parents for being too "over-protective" or "detached beyond reason" I wonder, WHICH IS IT, PEOPLE?

I mean, really. Both seem to be popular battle cries, but it can't be true that the majority of the population is both. Aren't they mutually exclusive?

Helicopter parents spotting their children's every move to catch them so they never fall.

Parents so absorbed in electronic media that their children run amok with no discipline or sense of concern. Poor, senseless creatures, subject to the wiles of the world.

And I just don't buy it.

Maybe it's my sheltered, naive Midwestern life.

But I really don't think so.

The majority of the parents I know are doing the best they can with the tools available to them. The combination of their shared experiences as children, memories of childhood happiness and disappointments and ability to meet the demands of their daily lives while still maintaining a healthy sense of self help create their parenting strategy.

Because, really, is a father absorbed in checking his Facebook status or updating his blog while his child begs for his attention really any more abominable than one with his nose buried in a newspaper, with the unspoken rule that "nobody bothers Daddy while he's reading the news"?

Or the mother sitting, having coffee with friends while the children play in the next room any more horrible than one chatting on the cell phone or updating her Facebook status while her kids play in the back yard or park?

And who can blame the mother unable to let go of her child as she ventures into the world, taking those first tentative steps into the joys and sorrows of negotiating the social circles of friendship? Some release their grip quickly, praying for their child's well-being and safety, always with a watchful eye to help the child negotiate and cope through the trials and tribulations of childhood friendships. Others have and will always have a harder time. Holding their children close until they are literally pushed aside as the child makes a break for freedom.

And we learn as we go.

It is entirely possible that we are more prone to be pushed to the extreme, in these days of 24-hour media cycles and exposure to the world's "professional opinion" on every possible child-rearing decision.

Which just begs the question ... are we really helping anyone reporting on these "atrocities" of parenting, supplying ever-mounting ammunition to those who would wag their fingers in condemnation of these awful "modern" parents.

Because it seems just another example of our intolerance for the "other." None of us, in any generation, has been or will be the perfect parent. We must all battle daily our sinful selves to love our children unconditionally in a world that will compete for our attention and try to convince us our children are in constant danger.

What, instead, could we accomplish if we simply stepped forward in faith and cared for one another. respecting and supporting each other's decisions and helping one another along the way?

I know, pie-in-the-sky ...

But wouldn't it be amazing?