Why I Refuse to Be a Helicopter Parent Now That My Son Is at College
So, we dropped our oldest child off at college yesterday. And by “dropped off,” I mean we schlepped a lot of stuff (except the new bean bag chair that wouldn’t fit in the overstuffed car) door-to-door, helped him unpack, assemble, and arrange stuff, and then headed home.
I did not shed a tear.
For those who know me, this was rather unexpected. I mean, I cry at TV commercials. You know the one for Folgers with the returning soldier surprising his parents? Gets me every time! I even got teary when I dropped my youngest son off for his high school math placement exam. My baby is going to high school, sniffle, sniffle.
But taking my firstborn to college did not merit a single tear.
Like most of his Jewish Day School educated contemporaries, my son spent a gap year studying in Israel. Believe me, I cried at the airport. I was excited for him to have this life-changing, life-enhancing experience but he was going ACROSS THE WORLD. He couldn’t just pop home if he didn’t feel well. If he needed a new sweater or something, I couldn’t get it to him easily. And, you know: random stabbings in the streets seemingly every day. If my child needed me, I was a very long flight away—and a very expensive ticket at that.
This year is different. He’s less than two hours away in Philadelphia—a quick zip down the New Jersey Turnpike. He’s in the same time zone. If he’s sick, I can bring him soup. (I almost certainly wouldn’t, but I could.) If he needs anything, Amazon Prime will get it to him like magic. He’ll be home for Rosh Hashanah.
There’s nothing to cry about. I’m excited and happy for him as he embarks on this new stage of life. Admittedly, I was borderline overly enthusiastic as I helped him prepare (I still don’t know why he didn’t want the cute packable iron or the fold up Sherpa chair, but whatever, it’s his journey!), but shepherding my son off to college made me happy. Confession: I also take some glee in the fact that he’s going to the school that rejected me—my son has avenged my honor!
When my parents dropped me off at college, my mother cried the whole way home because she left me while I was in tears. I was a little nervous to be away from home and upset because I wasn’t going to my first choice school, but by the time I spoke to her three hours later, I had already made new friends and was heading to a party. Needless to say, she wanted to kill me for putting her through the trauma!
I did not cry yesterday because my son had a huge smile on his face and practically pushed us out the door. As parents, we want our children to be happy. We want them to succeed. We want them to have amazing experiences, but we also want them to be safe and healthy. We want to cushion them in bubble wrap and solve all their problems, but we also want to nudge them out of the nest and let them find their own solutions to problems and their own way of doing things (not that we want them to fly too far!).
It’s a fine line that’s very easy to cross—more so in today’s world of texting and FaceTime. Another Confession: It’s been less than 24 hours, and I’ve already sent my son several Amazon links to things he might want to order for his room…
On the one hand, modern technology lets our children reach us whenever they need us, on the other it’s too darn easy to succumb to the temptation to “helicopter.” A text here; an email there; a cell phone call while walking between classes; an emailed paper to proof; Facebook posts to peruse; and before you know it, you are THAT mom.
Did I secretly love it when my son texted me from Israel last year for help the first time he did laundry? Heck yes! But was I also thrilled that he was able to be our “tour guide” in Jerusalem, having made the city his home? Of course!
And now, he’s on to his next adventure. I hope he’ll call for advice when he needs it, but I’ll be so proud when he does things on his own. I’ll try not to hover, though I’ll probably annoy him sometimes.
I’m not a Pollyanna. I don’t imagine it will be all smiles for the next four years, but I’m saving the tears for his graduation.
This article was published on Kveller.com