By Judy Reiss
I heard the most interesting thing the other day. It was a description of today’s mothers. I had never heard this before but my friends told me that I must be the only person in Vermont who did know this name. Regardless of whether I did or I didn’t, here it is! It is a “Helicopter Mother”.
I am assuming that some of you have never heard this expression, so I am going to explain to you what it means. Are you ready? It means that the mother of 2016 who hover around her children! What do you think? Is this a fair name or comment? Well, I just can’t help myself and so I have to discuss the Helicopter Mother because I think it is a very appropriate name.
If you read almost any book about history in this country and throughout the world, if you look for the information, you will learn how children were brought up and what the mother’s role was in that upbringing. In almost every part of the world, including our country, there were two different ways that children were raised, and it would seem that money was the driving force. A child who was born into money was handed to a wet nurse right from birth and then a nurse took over and raised him or her. They did see their mother but it was by invitation only! Every day an opportunity was planned and the children were presented to their parents. Their mother was included in the decisions on the daily life of her children. But that really included meals and play periods. However, she was not included in the decision making about their schooling. Actually, it was easy about girls because early on they were only taught how to sew and paint. Cooking was done by a cook in another part of the house. And she was not taught to cook. To eat, yes, but she was not included in the preparation process. Boys were taught in the schoolroom by a tutor and he was supposed to learn whatever his father had decreed! And both the girls and the boys were taught to behave and be polite, especially when presented to their parents.
Now what happened to the other children who didn’t have the opportunities the other children did? These children had a completely different lifestyle than their counterparts! They spent most of their time with their mothers when they were babies. But once they were able to walk and talk these very young children, both girls and boys, had to work and help take care of the family. The lucky ones could work at home or find food and objects to sell, but the rest worked in factories that were unbelievably awful! Many started in the factory when their mother had to work there and for 16-18 hours a week, the toddler was tied to his or her mother and learned to pick fabric apart or worse, make matches!
Let’s think about the children in this country who came many years ago. They, too, spent a lot of time close to their mother because that was the safest place to stay. But they weren’t able to just play with toys and rest. Nope, most of them had to help the family and they did this by taking care of the younger children, working in the gardens, and doing whatever chores were given to him or her. Finally, when a school was made available, they walked to it and with a light heart, learned whatever was taught by the young teacher.
If we skip ahead, we see a lot of differences between areas of the county and of course, financial differences. But the children did what they were told and for the most part, held their mother in high esteem.
Skipping ahead, when I was brought up, children were to be seen but not heard! Can you believe it? And although we weren’t sent off to factories, we did have to work around the house, and of course, take care of our younger siblings. But probably the most obvious difference between today’s children and those of my time is that we were never able to talk back to our mother or anyone else’s mother! And the village did help to raise the child! If you were naughty or fresh, your mother knew it before you got home. And punishment wasn’t talking your electronics away from you! Nope, a punishment was something that you feared and remembered for weeks! And we almost never got new clothes or shoes and when we did we knew how lucky we were and we had to take care of them.
And the mothers? Well, my mother never, ever played with me. In fact, I don’t remember her ever coming to a game of mine. Of course, back then, kids played and made up the rules and didn’t expect a parent to come and make rules and help run the game! Not only that, my mother didn’t know the mother of any of my friends. Back then, kids were kids and mothers were mothers and never did they get together! My mother nor the mother of any of my friends ever went to school. And that was because I never got into any trouble, and that meant she didn’t have to come. If she had had to come, I would have been scared to death! Back then the rule was “if you get into trouble in school, what will happen at home will be much, much worse.” And the teacher was always right!
My mother would not to be able to understand the Helicopter Mother. She believed that children were taught the rules when they were growing up and that was that. Mothers never, ever hovered around their child! It would have been considered unbelievable and not only would the mother have been ostracized, the child would have been so embarrassed that he wouldn’t have been able to breathe!
Now I know that times have changes and no longer can a child walk to his or her friend/s house alone, but I do think that a helicopter mother is not doing her child any favors. A child needs to feel that he or she can make decisions on his or her own and that whatever they do will be supported by their mother, who is either at home or at work!
I think that most children today are able to understand how to behave and that they are proud of their own accomplishments. And a mother who hovers only makes them worry about their ability to make their own decisions.
Mom, let your little angel fly and put the brakes on your love and your worries.