Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Helicopter Mommy

"A helicopter parent is a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not." ~ wikipedia

I'm always joking this is me. But seriously being a helicopter parent is not healthy for growing independent children. Austin obviously has this worse but Tommy isn't that much better off.

This summer I watch kids from our neighborhood biking all over the place, the little girl down the road comes down unsupervised in her Barbie car. Clans move along and I'm sure Tommy would have a blast joining them but I fear letting him off on his own. Plus Austin would be upset because I'd certainly make him stay home.

Just this summer I've finally let Austin play out in our yard by himself. Of course I open the window so I can hear the basketball bounce but as soon as I don't hear him for even a minute I go check on him. Sometimes I'll panic because he's gone, only to find him playing in the backyard or in the garage. Why am I so paranoid? I live in flipping Mayberry, nothing bad ever happens here. I have this irrational fear of that one strange time where the kids get snatched, or a big dog attacks, or they upset a bees nest. I know I'm strange. Our kids are the only ones in the neighborhood that are forced to wear bike helmets and Tommy can't ride unless I'm out there.

I always thought I would just hover over them for safety issues but now I'm starting to worry about school. Just for Austin, Tommy has never had an issue with school academically and he is one of the lucky ones who probably never will. But Austin, Austin, Austin. I'm highly questioning this move to Kindergarten. He's not excited about it at all and I fear he will be crying all day. Then again, he would probably cry going to school regardless after being home all summer. But he's just not seeming like he's a. mature enough for Kindergarten and b. smart enough and c. mobile enough. Let's expand on this.

a. Maturity - See the crying above. Also, behavior wise he'll copy others and he also tends to not listen. He does what he wants and sometimes just refuses to stop something even if knows the consequences. He's a whiner and tattle tale too. Not a good student combo.

b. Brains - Could he have some sort of mild learning disability? We work everyday on numbers and letters. The letters and sounds he does great individually. But ask him like what does pig start with and he'll say some odd letter and I'll even give him a "p" and "s" and he might say "s." Numbers are even worse. We've really been working for over a year and he can't count higher than 13 without getting jumbled. He recognizes "26" and "15" because they are my hockey numbers. Every morning he gets on the scale and is either 33 - 35 pounds and he won't know what the number is. Isn't that strange? And sometimes he just doesn't want to perform and won't do anything. I've noticed he has trouble patterning a huge skill.

c. motor skills - scissor work could be downright dangerous. His printing is not too bad but he holds his pencil wrong and doesn't write fluidly. i.e. he'll form his letters in unconventional ways. Then you've got the problem of getting him lunch, he can't change his shoes, or put on his coat. I'm putting him in a classroom where he'll surely dominate the teacher and how fair is that to the other kids?

I know you all are going to come in here and blast me for this but it's really how I feel. And don't get me wrong, I'm proud of Austin and am so happy with all he's accomplished. These fears seem almost silly compared to what I feared back in 2004. But you always strive for more and I just want him to do well. I think I've done a very good job realizing he's not Tommy, however am I doing Austin a disservice by pushing him so hard? And I do know there is nothing wrong with Austin repeating Kindergarten if necessary. But what if this is the longest year of his life and I set him up with a hatred of school? Once again that irrational paranoia gets me.

Oh what to do? I suppose for now I'll just keep hovering close by. ;)


sherri said...

First of all....helicopter parent is funny. Never thought of it like that, but yeah I can see where it would come from. You will see as your kids get older, you won't need to hover so close. IF you want to get to know any of the parents and kids in your little sub-division, please let me know. Both boys have good friends in there! I'm sure the little girl you were watching was in Bryce's class last year (lol) We know about 6-7 kids that run the roads around there, hehehe. Heck, some days you may have seen mine out there with them, LOL. When mine go outside to play alone here, my windows are always open, and I am usually picking up the house, peeking out the windows all the time. Mine also wear bike helmets ALL the time!

Kindergarten was a HUGE step for Bryce last year, so I know where your coming from with Aus. Everything you said he'd have to do, Bryce had to also. Bryce learned so much last year, way more then when Drew was in kindergarten. He reads to me all the time now! I think that was our biggest challenge for him, but he does great now, and loves to read. Dawn, you know your son, and if feel he isn't ready, then don't push him. Like you said, he'll just hate school, and he'll have to go no matter what for a very long time still. Is there any way he could get an aid in class with him, so he doesn't take away from the other students? I do know that in kindergarten, Bryce had to be VERY independant, and we struggled with that at times. He should have been able to tie his shoes during the 2nd semester, and we still can't do that. His babysitter was told if she can get him to do it, I'd give her 20 bucks, b/c him and I can't seem to figure it out. Just do what your heart tells you to do Dawn. Your the one with him all summer!

Dawn said...

Thanks Sherri for the kind words. I hope I didn't come off as too big of a whiney butt with my post. I don't think he could get an aid. He's not that bad off thankfully. He'll still have PT & OT come in though. His IEP already states that tying shoes will not be required. So thankfully he can do velcro, he still can't get them on though. Hopefully Bryce will conquer it soon.

I know the school will be very accommodating to him and I probably shouldn't worry. I had 4 people say he's ready, why should I doubt them? And they were right last year with moving him up to 4's.

Thanks again Sherri.

Barbara said...

I would say I'm a helicopter parent as well so I don't think there is anything strange about that. I'm always shocked that some parents are so lax.

As for Austin, I agree with the previous poster - you know him best. Is it possible to try it out and see how it goes? could you talk to his teacher before the start of the school year to see what he/she thinks? He may benefit from being with other kids his age or maybe it will be too much too soon. It's hard to know without trying.

I'm so not looking forward to these kinds of decisions!

Amy said...

It's so hard to figure out what the right thing to do for you child is. We all have different situations, but at the heart of it all, is what is best for them. What Sherri says is true, you are the best judge, but keep this in mind:
1 - If you set the bar low, that is where he will reach.

2 - Children are always whinier and more difficult with their parents.

3 - You can always go back if you want.

4 – The most important teaching lesson I learned from a teacher that I worked under was, always, always, always set the bar high, give them something to reach for, you might be surprised what they can do for you and if they don’t reach the goal, they still probably achieved something.

Ultimately, you and Joe should do what you feel is best, but don't discount him, he has always surprised thus far, right?

Jill said...

I hope you know that you are not being forced to put Austin in Kindergarten, and if you didn't put him in Kindergarten no one would be upset. You can always start with young 5's and move up to Kindergarten, or the other start with Kindergarten and move down to young 5's.

I must say I left your house the other day and I could tell you were stressed. I said to Julie the other day "Joe and Dawn think I don't want Austin!"
I want what is best for Austin and you are the only one that will truly know!
We all trust you and I hope you are not felling any pressure coming from me!

Dawn said...

haha, first off Jill - I was totally joking about the trying to pawn off Austin. For some crazy reason which I somewhat understand you seem to love the little stinker so I know you're not wanting rid of him. ;) I just felt better about it in May after he finished so well in preschool. It's just been a long summer and probably a summer of regression but that happens to most students. I forget that I will have a ton of reteaching to do with 7/8 graders.

Amy - Everything you say is correct and gosh you say things so well. You definitely made me feel better; thank you. Yes, I need to set the bar high. I forget that sometimes. P.S. Got my People Special today. ;)

Barbara - Thank you for making me feel better with the helicopter parenting. ;) You are right, we can try it and if it doesn't work out we can move him down.

Thank you everyone again for the support. I guess I had a weak moment. I will add another reason as to why I am weakening on the Kindergarten. Many people we've told that we're doing K are surprised and you can just see it in their shocked expressions that they think he is too little. And right away I'll jump in with the, "well he'll get more services in K, and he can always repeat." I guess I am feeling like I'm already making excuses when I want to be saying, "he's ready, he's going to thrive." I don't know.

Amy said...

Pooh on those people, who do they think they are?!! (and that is all I will nicely say!!)

P.S. Got mine today, too! Already read it cover to cover. They are soo cute!

Dawn said...

Thanks Amy - you're cool. ;)

amy hartling said...

Okay... so you have already had tons of comments. But, I wanted to add my two cents.

As a teacher he has some things in common with all kindergarteners--
1. They all cry the first day.
2. Most copy others
3. Listening is a skill they are ALL refining.
4. Scissors are always a ify subject.

Kindergarten is for explict and specific instruction for letter/sound matching and numbers recognition and handwriting. (If he hasn't made gains by the end of the year- then you should show concern)There are plenty of Kindergarten readiness checklists.
Here is another resource

Okay... so now as a mom. Some mom's just feel there kid is developing more slowly than others. Maybe compared to your first child, neighbor kids, neice or nephew- it doesn't matter. All kids are different. Teachers don't expect kids to get it all at once.

In Oklahoma, we have preschool (4 year old class) offered 1/2 day in the elementary school. It isn't manditory, BUT the kids who went have a leg up on those who didn't. But, good news! by second grade it doesn't matter- They are all caught up. Austin may need more repetition and experiences to learn something (research says most of us need at least 7) If he hasn't had specific instruction on which number is 33, then he might not just pick it up. So... try not to stress. You will make the right decision.

ellen :) said...

I am SO a helicopter parent!! AT least up until this past year...I guess I have to give Luke SOME space..and with Sam, I guess it's irrelevant..should I consider that a CP silver lining??
Anywho, IMHO, as a teacher and a mom, I would probably keep him ot one more year, but I guess you know him better than I do...I am freaking out about sending Sammy to the integrated preschool in Sept. I am only doing 2 days to start... I would keep him out if I weren't having EVERYbody tell me that it's best for him... hmmmm... we'll see..
well, good luck with your a teacher and a mom, too, you know what the right decision is in your heart! :)

Ellen :)

Sheila said...

I am DEFINITELY a helicopter parent too! How can we not be with our special little ones? I don't have any great words of advice, just wanted to say that I totally understand where you're at. I'm at the same point with trying to decide what to do about pre-k with Malayna this year. Some days I think she's ready and others I say "no way". It's hard to know the right thing to do, but I'm sure you'll do it. Good luck and let us know what you decide.

Dawn said...

Amy - Thank you for another great teacher perspective. Looking at the websites you sent I think he may have what's necessary for kindergarten success. And he is going to have an excellent teacher, Tommy had her her rookie year and just did awesome. Very interesting thought about all kids catching up by 2nd grade.

Ellen & Sheila - Thanks for the advice. It seems every decision is so much harder with our special kiddos. And I have that same issue, some days he seems ready, others not so much.

Thank you again everyone for helping ease my mind on a very important decision.

therealtommix said...

Helicopter parent - that is a pretty interesting expression.
I think Austin will be Austin. Look how far he has come in just a couple of years! A lot of credit to his great parents and strong family life. WTG Papesh family!

Dawn said...

Awe Julie, you are too sweet. Thanks for your encouragement!

sherri said...

Ha~just heard them, talking about helicopter parents on TV. Hmmmm maybe I am one of them as well, although I didn't think I was by the way you describred it, but according to him...yeah thats me! O well! : )

I'd rather be too involved then not involved at all! After all, they are my kids, not the communities to raise!