Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I am a hardcore Breaking Bad aficionado. As in, I still haven’t gotten into a new show since its finale because it’s ruined me from almost all forms of entertainment. But aside from the dramatic enjoyment I derived from it, I also took away a quote or two. One of them that struck me was uttered by morally conflicted character, Jesse Pinkman. Having gone through rehab (and committing various crimes along the way), Jesse says, as if achieving epiphany, “It’s all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am. I’m the bad guy.” As a parent, I think it’s important to recognize what type of caregiver we genuinely are as well. Just without all the meth cooking. Sometimes, very often in fact, I find myself playing the part of “bad guy.”
I’m a neurotic, helicopter parent (most of the time). I can’t help it; it’s who I am. And I simply cannot deny the very fabric of my being. But there are times when I’ll sort of view myself from the lens of an outsider. And, I have to say, sometimes I look like a complete a**hole.
This past Memorial Day weekend, my wife had gone food shopping, so I took both our sons out in the backyard to play with their new sprinkler under the glorious sun-filled sky. What I realized very astutely is that the farther my wife is from me when I’m monitoring my children, the more neurotic I become. When my wife’s present, we each seem to take a job, one of us playing the role of “cool parent” while the other runs around picking up crumbs and doling out discipline. When it’s just me and the boys, I become the helicopter parent I always assumed I wouldn’t be.
As my five-year-old, Antonio, gleefully picked up said sprinkler and pointed it directly at me and my younger (and drier) son, my eyes widened. Is there anything here that ice water would negatively impact? Yes! Nate’s Woody doll (since he wouldn’t dry before bedtime), Nate himself (who was in a bad mood) and paper instructions on how to use the sprinkler. And also, me! So, being the neurotic person I am, I instantly turned the hose off and shouted a bunch of incoherent jibberish.
“It’s only water,” I heard a voice whisper inside my head. “What actual damage would it cause, if any? And why the hell are you freaking out about instructions on how to use a f***ing sprinkler?” Whoever’s in my head can get pretty foul-mouthed and chatty, I tell ya. But that didn’t stop me from pulling the plug on the impromptu shower. And then again 30 seconds later when my son turned the hose on once more, against my will. I had to follow through. I simply had to. Antonio needed to understand that listening to me wasn’t just one option, it was the only option. And also, I don’t like getting wet unless it’s on my terms. But mostly, because I made a decision and felt it imperative to stick to it if I expected my kid to listen to me in the future. That’s what I’ve found hardest as a parent- to stick to a decision no matter how silly it feels like it is while you’re making it.
As extreme an example as this is, it’s part of a much larger picture of me as a dad (and many of us, I’d assume). While I certainly goof around with my sons when time permits, I’m a guardian, first and foremost. That means that I’m not only responsible for protecting my children from the dangers of the outside world, but I’m also responsible for guarding the outside world against my children! That starts with getting them to adhere to boundaries. Sometimes I go overboard, I admit. But in the end, I feel that a vigilant mindset will minimize the chance of disaster and maximize the potential of my children to ultimately become safe, mindful adults.
Plenty of you will view me as uptight, excessive, overprotective even. And you may be right. But I find solace in that the qualities that make me go overboard come from the same place that makes me a strong guardian for my kids.
Any of you out there like me? The complete opposite of me? Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
And if you have three minutes to watch me impersonating my sons, while wearing a ladies tee, click below for the latest edition of my web series, Parental Guidance!
And, if you enjoyed the video, watch the outtakes!
I like to think I’m not a helicopter parent. I certainly worry but I try not to hover. And as much as I want Fia and Emmett to stay with me forever and never leave (kidding, but I do have my moments of wanting to bottle this time in my life with them) I consider it my duty to teach them independence from me.
I see friends who coddle their kids incessantly. I had a playdate once where Fia took a toy from a kid. She was 2. The mom kind of freaked. “Fia, give the toy back. You can’t take it from her,” she yelled. But the little girl wasn’t even playing with the toy. Nor did she care. Still, I instantly made sure Fia promptly returned the toy. I want to teach my kids to share, and no, I don’t believe in the RIE movement of letting your kids work everything out on their own. But sometimes we hover too much. Or not enough. Hard to say.
Sidenote: here is my favorite RIE moment: a mom brings her kid over and he finds a 4 foot long tree branch and starts waving it around, nearly pummeling Fia. Instead of taking the stick away she says, “I try not to get too involved because I want him to learn the space around him.” Um, okay, what about my child’s brain that almost got fractured? RIE parenting at its finest. Needless to say she never came over again.
So now I ask: who is aware of Stephanie Metz and the blog post she wrote, about helicopter parenting and bullying, that went viral? Who agrees and disagrees with what she is saying? On many points, I agree with her. But on others, I think she needs to realize that with bullying, we do live in a different world than the one she and I grew up in. There were not the Columbines and the Newtowns of the world. I’m guessing since she lives in North Dakota, she is pro-gun. Most people in that part of the country are. So her “world” is probably different from someone who is raising a kid in LA, Chicago or NYC.
Nevertheless, here are some of her points (and click here to read the entire blog):
Many years ago, there was a time where young boys could run around with their toy guns, killing the bad guys. You could take the toy guns away from the little boys, and they’d find something else around them – a stick, their fingers, etc – and pretend it was a gun. Today, those little boys – if caught doing that – are labeled as threats, and immediate action is taken to remove that threat from the group.
I don’t totally buy that. I know plenty of little boys who run around playing pretend gun who don’t get removed from their group or school. But with gun violence at record numbers, shouldn’t gun-playing other than the Lone Ranger and Tonto, be, if not discouraged, at least not encouraged? And I do know that boys typically do display that behavior even if they grow up in an anti-gun house. They just pick it up somewhere, like preschool. I will say that I am not going to encourage Emmet to run around “playing gunfight” and I’m not going to buy him a toy gun. At least not now. Maybe when he’s 7 my perspective will change.
Your child, who you cater to every need, who you shelter from all things “evil.” How will this child react when he or she grows into adulthood? ”Debbie” graduates from high school and goes to college. She writes her first paper and meets with her professor about that paper and the professor tells her that it’s junk and it will get a failing grade. How will Debbie cope with that if she’s always been made to feel that no one should ever make her feel sad, or criticize anything she does?
Stephanie writes about how kids grow up and find rejection in the workplace and the real world. She writes about how they can’t handle it. I agree. Kids can’t learn coping skills on any level when they grow up buried in their gadgets. They can’t learn proper socialization either. So for me, this is a combo of helicopter parenting and parenting with your iPad. She seems on the mark with that too.
My children are all but ignored when they ask for something without using manners. They understand that when someone addresses or speaks to them, they are to speak back. When we go out to eat, we don’t take 5 electronic devices to keep them “entertained” for the 15 minutes we have to wait for our food. If Hendrix is “bored” (and I use that term loosely), then he can put on his jacket and go play outside.
But where I don’t agree with her is in her stance on bullying.
There was a time – not too long ago – when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money. There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it (ask me how I know this). Now, if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world truly has ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party. And Sally – phew! She should be jailed! She should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like – gasp – a teenage girl acts.
Again, factor in the technology. Factor in that peers can totally f–k with you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is the first generation where this is happening. And it’s not good. Add that to the peer pressure of a teenage boy and girl and we’ve seen tragic results. I don’t think kids who are bullied become suicidal solely because they had helicopter parents. But once again, when kids aren’t taught to lose, cope or be bored, it’s a lethal combination on many levels.
So go read her post, weigh in and let me know your thoughts. Her post went from 8 readers to over a million, so it’s worth taking a look at.