Whoever came up with the term helicopter parent must have been thinking about Latinos. Can you say overprotective and overbearing? Yep, that was my mother!
I always used to say that if I ever had kids I would give them much more freedom than I was given. I would give them the kind of freedom my parents never gave to me. I never understood why my mother was so strict. She would say that New York City, especially The Lower East Side, where I grew up, was not a safe place for niñas like me.
When I wanted to go to the movies with my friends, or have a sleepover, my mother would say, "Tu no eres Americana, nosotros no tenemos tal costumbre" or "You're not an American, we don't keep such customs."
I knew I would inevitably lose any argument with my mother, and I didn't want to disrespect her by saying, "YES, I am indeed an American—I was born in this country! Besides, you're just being plain crazy!"
I thought I was going to be a much more progressive mother, and sink or swim was going to be my parenting motto, but that's not exactly how things are playing out.
This past weekend we went to the park like we do every weekend. Hudson, my 3-year-old, was on the big-boy slide, and my husband and I were hovering over him. One kid, just slightly older than Hudson, pushed him aside in line for the slide.
The boy's father was standing beside us and didn't say a word to his son, as if pushing any child is acceptable behavior. My husband and I looked at each other and couldn't believe it! The helicopter parent I claimed I wouldn't become came out with fury.
My husband and I kindly told the little boy that pushing Hudson was not okay. The father, again, said nothing. A lot of parents in my neighborhood are hands-off—they want their kids to figure things out on their own, which I respect.
And I even thought that was also my philosophy, until I saw my kid get pushed. But then I started questioning my approach. Was I doing wrong by Hudson by not letting him defend himself? Does he even know what that means? Was I being too hard on the other kid?
The modern mom in me wants Hudson to figure out how to handle his own struggles, yet the Latina mom in me wants to hover over him, the way my mother did with me.
Latina or not, all mothers want to be able to rescue their child when he's been wronged. But the reality is that's not always possible, or even helpful for your child. I don't expect my helicopter parenting to ease up, but I'm hoping to not overreact if I can help it.
Photo via Yesenia Almonte