Hurricane Katia: worn out and old wanted to visit Britain before she blew her final breath. She managed it today, surprising us all with her residual bluster. Her visit shut down bridges in Scotland and brought heavy rains to Cornwall. London enjoyed warm, humid sunshine but doors were flung from our hands as the winds dipped into the south-east of this island nation.
At times, it was if a helicopter was landing outside the school. Great sweeping and spinning circles of litter and late summer dust twisted into the air and knocked on the windows. I forgive myself for thinking it was indeed a helicopter, dear readers. I forgive myself for thinking the parents had finally landed.
The term Helicopter Parent was penned in the past decade to describe the (recent?) phenomenon of parents who refuse to afford their children independence in social and professional situations and therefore hover and micro-manage their offspring’s lives. Thus far there has been little academic research into Helicopter Parenting. Personally, I cannot claim to have any experience of the more pronounced cases: those in which parents have even intervened in negotiating their children’s wage package at work. However, I can confirm that my experience of primary schools warrants not only the existence of Helicopter Parenting but the need at some schools for a landing pad to be designated on the playground to accommodate the number of hoverers.
The aims of primary education include teaching children to socialise with a wide range of people. HPs pay lip service to this notion but can’t help themselves; they want, no they NEED, to organise the society to fit their narrow perception of child-rearing. Any disagreement with another child is a case of their precious being bullied. They stand outside the school gates at break time and scour the playground for tiny infractions on their perfectly ordered world.
Helicopter Children are sad to behold. Like a child in a bad divorce they are passed back and forth between home and school. Parents are convinced they are miserable at school and ask leading questions as soon as they pick them up: “You had a bad day didn’t you? I can tell”. Ten minutes before the child was laughing with their friends but to appeal to Helicopter Mother’s sense of injustice in the world appeases mummy, and gets her attention.
My latest brush with the whirlybird breed has already lasted 18 months. A child (let’s call her Jane) joined our school as a four year old. We were not her first school, she had already been withdrawn by her mother from one school because she was being bullied. Twenty five years, dear readers, I have been teaching and I have never encountered a case of bullying amongst four year olds. What I have experienced, and is the case with Jane; she is a natural alpha female who rules the roost at home and can’t get away with it at school. Sooner or later she will encounter another alpha female and there is a stand-off. Neither girl will yield to the other. They soon start forming alliances amongst other girls in the class and the shadowy command of “Don’t be her friend” materialises.
I will not enter into too many details of this case but it is safe to assume that Jane spins her mother a story each evening and in turn, every morning mother arrives in her Chinook demanding to “have a word with the Head. I’ll wait.” Countering the child’s claims with the real story is met with, “You’re calling my child liar?!”
Helicopter Mother storms off threatening to remove Jane permanently and to her third school in 18 months. She heads straight for the school gates and spends her morning staring through the railings and into the classroom’s large windows. She spots further injustices: teachers ignoring her child, pupils not engaged with her to her satisfaction.
A sad fact: Helicopter Parenting is borne out of love. Misplaced love, but love all the same. It is an attempt to communicate the normally unspoken bond between parent and child: the affirmation that a mother would do anything for her baby.
But helicopter blades, rotating on the ground cause us to duck our heads and cower. Beneath the great rotary beats, a child cannot stand tall. While the chopper lands to airlift her home, Jane will not learn to walk on her own feet, to find her way through this world under her own personal compass.
Spare a thought for the dying Katia tonight, dear readers. She: the maker of waves and gales now blows exhausted and spent. The great Atlantic storm will not survive the night. Tomorrow the swells on the North Sea will flatten and calm.
Spare a thought for Jane tonight, dear readers. She: the creator of stories to feed her mother’s appetite for rage at encroachment on her household. Look skywards; you will see the poor child, hanging from the rescue ladder and being winched to the innominate term of her mother’s safe and protective arms.
Keep the Faith,