Black Hawk down

“America’s worst mother” Lenore Skenazy  was in Australia this week and as a result is all over the Australian press.   Lenore created a furore in America when she let her 9 year travel home on the subway on his own. Kerry OBrien interviewed Lenore here if you’re interested.

The topic of “Helicopter Parenting” has been around for a long long time, it’s a fabulous catch phase and perfectly describes a parents want or need to hover over their child’s every move. My other favourite is the “lawnmower parent” who mows down and clears all obstacles in their child’s life.

In the world of Human Resources and Recruitment we talk about helicopter parenting at its’ next stage. Forget about the effect of the 8 and 9 year old who can no longer hop on a seesaw without a helmet and knee pads, but think about the 19 and 20 year old whose parents lunch with them at university while going through lecture and tutorial notes. I remember having dinner with friends a few years ago, their eldest was in his first year at University. I commented on the size of the book in the kitchen and was told it was part of his required reading.  The mother said “oh, that’s my copy” she shook her head and sighed in despair “it’s heavy reading”. Her son went on to explain that it was going to be a hard subject (English Lit) as his friends mum was an English teacher and she had written his paper and only managed a C. She lodged a formal complaint.

A couple of years ago, when we were living in Canada I managed a small team of recruiters for an International firm. We interviewed a lot of Gen Y’s for both internal and external positions.  It was right at the height of the energy boom and we were desperate for good candidates, all over the world we talked about the employment crisis and the candidate shortage.  I attended every professional seminar and discussion possible on how we were going to attract and keep our Gen Y’s. As a Gen X who hit the workforce in the late 80’s where the employment crisis was that there was no employment,  it was very hard to swallow. As I spoke to Gen Y about them, them and them and what they hoped for, their dreams and what they needed I noticed every now and then a “we” would pop up in conversation. At a water cooler you might hear  “we have a place by the lake” or  “we usually holiday in Florida once a year”. They were talking about their parents.

At the time, I too was a parent, I had 4 children who were aged 6 and below and naturally I knew everything there was too know about parenting teenagers and young adults. I wondered how these tragic parents had lost their way. As my children have grown older, it has all become clear.

On the drive home from school this week I was informed that I had math homework. The math teacher had designed this neat little game of tic tac toe that resulted in me having to sit and do long division problems with my child eg. she did one, i did one, until someone won the game. What a great idea….if you don’t have a tired and cranky 4 year old and two other children circling like sharks with their own scholastic demands. What’s for dinner? What dinner? I’m too busy doing my homework?!

This is not unusual. There is the writing project in Grade 1 where I write on one side of the page and my second little traveler writes on the other. There’s the nightly math game combined with the 30 minutes minutes of reading, oh and parent, don’t forget to write down the tools you used to become a better reader ?! My current favourite is the after school program for parents offering “strategies” on HOW to do your child’s math homework (the class is full).

The demands at school are constant. Come along to the spelling bee, watch your child’s poetry reading, watch your child speak another language, watch your child discover South America, Aboriginal Art and French cooking and don’t whatever you do forget to bring the video recorder. They are not so much invitations but instructions, the note that comes home reads “Parents are required to meet in the multi-function room at 8.10″….hmmmm I guess I’ll be taking some time off work or perhaps just add another dollar to the therapy jar. As each year passes our propellors get stronger and more developed until we’re so much a part of the school we have our own landing pads in the car park.

As parents we have the common sense to know how ridiculous the involvement is, believe me, I’d do anything to guide this black hawk down.

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