There's a lot written about those nightmares of the 21st Century known as "Helicopter Parents," those adults who become the micromanagers of their child's life. They complain to teachers about grades. They complain to coaches about playing time. They hover and schedule and thrust themselves into the minutiae of their youngster's existence.
Now that I'm back into the interesting zombie state of parenting an infant, returning to this state after five years thanks to the rhythm method, I sympathize with Helicopter Parents more than I did previously. I was just starting to get a little of my normal life back, y'see, and then another baby comes along and takes it all away. Damn you, baby!*
Now that I'm back into my parental cocoon, it would be tempting, stuck with a pathetic excuse for a social life, searching desperately for a bigger gauge of your day than which prime time show comes on that night, to make your child's life an extension of your own.
In fact, our society encourages it, like your buddy on the couch with the big grin on his face, smoke leaking out of his nostrils, arm outstretched and holding out a joint to you. We tell parents the more they're involved with their child, the better job they're doing. C'mon. Everyone's doing it. It's cool. But it's never really cool to do it as much as that guy on the couch. It's never good to do something so much you get a nickname for it. Like "Helicopter Parent."
Parenting is an art, not a science, no matter what H.I. McDonough might say, the Dr. Spock book nestled comfortably under his arm. The art is not whether we let our children make their own mistakes, let them learn how to recover, let them pick themselves up after a fall. The art is knowing when. The challenge is sitting on your hands knowing damn well you can help them and make things easier for them.
I'll be standing by,
Just don't forget to come on home...
First sign of recovery is the climb after the fall.
The wisest of sages, from my first girlfriend's father to Bruce Leroy's master teacher in The Last Dragon, have noted that true happiness comes by finding a critical balance between doing things for others and being comfortable with oneself. True selflessness is a pretty ideal that sells books, but 99% of us stuck on this planet seem fated to be a little more needy. We need our space. We need our time. We need our spotlights and attention and praise, silly stuff that's just for us and no one else.
We must all find balance, Daniel-san. Balance is rejoicing in our children's successes and mourning their failures while restraining from punching out the umpire or cussing out the teacher. Balance is telling you love them by letting them fall off their bike a few hundred times.
I'll be standing by... just don't forget to come on home.
* "Damn you, baby!" is 95% joke.
The song "Standing By" is from the Actual Tigers' only album, titled Gravelled & Green. It's a darn fine album that delves into Paul Simon, Ben Folds, and maybe even a little Guster. Go show this one-album wonder some luv.