Most of unschooling has to happen inside the parents. They need to spend some time sorting out what is real from what is construct, and what occurs in nature from what only occurs in school. —Sandra Dodd
This quote appeared on Sandra Dodd's unschooling website today. It greatly related to one of the few things that I had been thinking about all day, well, since I encountered some other mommies today.
"Ugh. I try to plan fun things for her to do, but nothing is ever good enough. She's never happy!", said one mom to another. The other mom responded, "That's being a parent!"
I'm actually tired of hearing this. Yes, I have my days with my boys. Meaning, there are moments I feel under appreciated. Moments where I can't understand why my four-year-old does not understand the value of a dollar and why he can't constantly buy anything and everything he wants. Moments. Fleeting moments. Then I realize, why would he? He is four. I still don't understand why I can't buy anything and everything I want.
To me, as an outsider, it was clear what her all-of-six-year-old daughter wanted - time with her mother. Instead, her mother brought her some place where she could basically ignore her and have her "go play" with other children after being in school half of the day.
This brings me to another thing that got me thinking. Both moms were sitting with another mom while their children played in an indoor playspace. The children were all six and under. While I do not consider myself a "helicopter" parent, I suppose I might be perceived as one. My children are 4 and almost 3. I made sure I was accessible and walked around the structure. There are two separate playspaces. One has slides and nets everywhere. The other is behind that one. It's a Pump n' Play space. While it's completely inflatable, it does have a history of collapsing. It's also loud due to the air generators, so if a child were to get hurt on the Pump n' Play, it would almost be impossible to hear him or her from the sitting area. I don't hover or crawl around with them...I just make sure I can hear them, for the most part. Okay, maybe I am a helicopter parent...
According to Wikipedia, "Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. The term was originally coined by Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay in their 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not."
Hmmm...are homeschooling moms automatically helicopter moms because we pay close attention at educational institutions...a.k.a. home? Now I feel like I have to defend myself so I can shake off the label "helicopter mom". I let my kids play outside. Alone. For at least five whole minutes without going to a window. Sometimes longer, if I can hear them. When they are quiet, that's usually what makes me peek. Our yard is partially fenced in and the kids are very adept at unlocking the gates. I let them make mistakes. I guide them through quarrels and all-out punching matches. I do not see myself getting a GPS for my child. Or a phone.
Let's take a look at a new Verizon ad. Lenore at Free Range Kids was the one who brought it my attention. Not personally. Although wouldn't it be nice to open up an e-mail intended just for me? "Hey, Erica, thought you'd love this ad! As if! Your BFF, Lenore." Back to reality. The ad focuses on a mom and her tween/teen daughter at the mall. Her mom is using a tracking device to keep her daughter's movements in sight. Who needs to be a helicopter mom when you have GPS? You can feel great about not being on top of your kid, while being on top of your kid...all metaphorically speaking, of course.
Last, but not least, there was the almost-altercation between me, um, I mean my son and another little boy. Four boys come barreling around the corner, all laughing. They jump on the jumpy thing (you know, with the scary clown face on top and it's a blow up ...cage, essentially). They're chasing one another and laughing. I hear one little boy say, "I'm going to tell my mom!" He calls for his mom, but she's not paying attention. I'm not really sure what's happening and I am paying attention. I hear the boy say to Eli, "Try to get me!" Eli smiles and then runs after the boy. Odin and some other boy are just watching and jumping. The "get me" boy tumbles out of the jumpy thing and tells his mom, "that boy (pointing to Eli) is trying to beat me up!" She looks over and blinks. I had to refrain from yelling, "WHAT?! You just told him to try to get you!" Eli looked a bit confused and concerned and walked away. Odin, on the other hand, decided it was now his job to take out the kid and began throwing punches. I reminded him to have 'nice hands' and the four of them were off running again. "Get me" boy comes back a few minutes later crying because some boy was scaring him. My kids come in sight seconds after. He points to Odin. "That's the one!" On his own, Odin apologized. Get me's mom said, "What? He's half your size!"
Now, I'm not sure what was up with this boys mom. Did she think her son's cry for her attention was simply him being a fresh kid and that she needed to give him tough love?
I found the parent-child relations in the playspace today to be confusing. These parents brought their children there to socialize. Not the children, the moms. I understand needing to socialize with other grown ups. I GET it. But, if your child has been in school all day why bring them some place immediately after in order for them to be away from you some more? I really do not understand that, especially when these children desperately want nothing more than to be with their parent doing anything together.
Lawnmower parent? That's a new one. I thought I'd include it because of its novelty. From Wikipedia - "Some college professors and administrators[who?] are now referring to "Lawnmower parents" to describe mothers and fathers who attempt to smooth out and mow down all obstacles, to the extent that they may even attempt to interfere at their children's workplaces, regarding salaries and promotions, after they have graduated from college and are supposedly living on their own."
And this one..."An extension of the term, "Black Hawk parents," has been coined for those who cross the line from a mere excess of zeal to unethical behavior, such as writing their children's college admission essays."