I’ve struggled with my frustration toward “Helicopter Moms” for years, much to my dismay. Because really, I don’t want to care so much about how or why people do what they do. I want to be a “live and let live” kind of mom and focus my energy on my own stuff and my own kids.
But yesterday I had an interaction with a fellow mother that was so unsettling, I needed to write it out to help me process it.
My 10-year-old daughter was performing for the fifth and final time as a workhouse orphan in the local high school musical Oliver!
One of her classmates does a lot of local theater and according to her mother, “has been doing it forever.” Another mom and I were talking to that girl’s mother after the show and asked her how she finds out about all the local auditions, thinking our daughters might like to do more acting too.
Well, either this mom had accidentally put her thong on backwards that day, or she didn’t want any more competition for her daughter because her response was a very chilly, “Oh, word of mouth,” followed by, “…and the more shows you do, the more opportunities you get. In fact, Emma just won a scholarship to study in New York this summer.”
Intrigued, I asked, “Do you go with her for things like that?” Because really, I was just wondering how stage moms with multiple kids support their child’s interests if it requires travel.
But instead of answering my question respectfully, this woman turned directly to the other mom in our little conversation circle, rolled her eyes, and very sarcastically replied “No. I put my child on a plane alone to New York City.”
She wasn’t even looking at me when she said this. She was looking at the other mom and smirking like “Can you believe this chick just asked me that?!”
I was so caught off guard by her snarky reply that I countered “I’ve actually put my kids on planes alone before.” (Which is true. I have. My two older ones traveled alone to visit their grandparents once. Probably not the kind of thing I would ever do again…live and learn.)
But silly me, of course this mother would never dream of letting one of her children out of her sight even for a minute.
She then looked at me like I was wearing a pelt of human infant skin and her countenance told me she was not at all surprised I would put my children on a plane alone. If thought bubbles were real, hers would have read: “Of course you have, bless your heart.”
Which of course was my cue to KEEP. ON. TALKING. Because what better way is there to deal with a mean girl than to develop sudden diarrhea of the mouth?
“I mean…I’m just curious, because you have other kids. What do you do with them when you travel for things like this?”
“It’s only for a week.” (eye roll)
“But who takes care of your other kids?” I pressed.
“My husband.” (unspoken body language: “Duh.”)
“Does he work from home?” (me, not letting go)
“Yes.” (unspoken: “Get a clue. And why are you wearing a pelt of baby skins?”)
Better late than never, I finally got the message she was not going to be more friendly or helpful or even civil in this conversation. She clearly had the market cornered on how to be a successful stage mother and she wasn’t going to give us any insight into how she keeps so many balls in the air.
I’m pretty sure these aren’t really the kind of situations Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had in mind when she said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” She was probably talking about much higher level scenarios like negotiating with international terrorists or the women who answer the phones at the pediatrician’s office.
How hard would it have been for that mother to be pleasant, or helpful, or just not a fucking asshole?
And it finally dawned on me why Helicopter Moms like her irritate me so much.
It’s because their extreme hovering makes me question if I’m doing a good enough job mothering my own children.
Because sometimes it’s hard to know what came first, the independent children or the non-hovering mother? And does it even matter? Why does there have to be a right way and a wrong way to do this?
Should I be pushing my kids to win summer camp scholarships? Should I be attending all five showings of this 2.5 hour play (at $12 a pop, to see my kid in one five minute scene)? Should I not have allowed my two older kids to visit their grandparents without me that summer? Should I be writing this blog post when I could be vying for a good position in the carpool line or making flashcards or researching which extra curricular activities will help my kids get into the colleges that will ultimately help them earn the kind of salaries they will need to buy me the best nursing home money can buy?
Of course not. Because that is not my style or what my kids require.
I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.
My kids are creative, and independent, and can make people laugh and recite haikus about poop and have unstructured fun and study for tests without Pinterest-worthy embossed flash cards.
And they will be okay regardless of what I do or don’t do to help them. In fact, I know in my gut that they are better off for having to figure some things out on their own without my constant presence or input.
But it never makes it any easier to deal with those sanctimonious Helicopter Moms when our paths do cross.
Perhaps they are put in my life to help me grow as a loving, compassionate woman. For I have no control over the things they say or do…only the way I respond to them.
In which case…
Dear Stage Mother Superior,
Thank you for reminding me yesterday that I am an awesome mother. And so are you, in your own special way, bless your heart.
Kindly, and with compassion for your lack of grace and social skills,
PS – Watch your back, because my daughter WILL be at that next audition, and I’m letting her borrow my baby-skin-pelt. See you there!