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C'mon Mom, Go Away Already!
August 23, 2010 4:01 AM   Subscribe

When Parents Won't Cut the Cord. As a reaction to helicopter parents (who read books about the stages of grief so they can cope with their kid's growing up), colleges are literally shutting the gates on parents who can't let go.
posted by dzaz (274 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
See also: What is it about 20-somethings?
posted by Brodiggitty at 4:10 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


There comes a time when parents must leave the nest.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Freshman year, I had 4 roommates in a suite. Parents were in the way all day, everyone futzing around, mommies trying to make beds and unpack, and we four trying to tell our families to leave already so we could at last become grownups.

The first genuine bonding moment I had with my roommates was when after the last parent left, one girl shut the door and said, "Finally. Who's got weed?"
posted by dzaz at 4:25 AM on August 23, 2010 [111 favorites]


The New York Times loves certain educational themes:

it's impossible to get into good kindergartens--it's too competitive, too costly, requires too many tutors!

Kids today are useless--either they're lazy, afraid to strike out on their own, or the parents won't turn them loose!

They do these stories about three times a year.
posted by etaoin at 4:26 AM on August 23, 2010 [37 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've seen this story before (and from a time when "helicopter parents" had not yet been coined). As timeless as the Night Before Tax Day stories.
posted by DU at 4:30 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


It must be hard not to helicopter when sending a kid to college costs so much of the parents' money and their kids often don't look ready to handle it. This umbilical-cutting stuff should start in kindergarten, so kids are ready to kill, prepare, and eat their parents right after the university tuition payments are arranged.
posted by pracowity at 4:32 AM on August 23, 2010 [27 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've seen this story before (and from a time when "helicopter parents" had not yet been coined).

Dear Mama,
Please do not be such a... what shall I call it? Please do not be such an aerial screw parent [see diagram 1]. I can handle this.
Your loving son,
Leonardo
posted by pracowity at 4:35 AM on August 23, 2010 [143 favorites]


...kids are ready to kill, prepare, and eat their parents right after the university tuition payments are arranged.

As documented in Atlas Shrugged and Went Back to Playing Video Games.
posted by DU at 4:36 AM on August 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


Mrs. AHaWO works in a research lab and about six months ago, she was hiring an RA for the semester. When she was ready to interview Candidate C, two women walked in. A young woman and an older woman. Mrs. AHaWO was confused. Turns out the older woman was the younger woman's mother, and was there for more than just emotional support. She asked about wages, hours, responsibilities, protocol, etc. And so the interview was over and Mrs. AHaWO spoke with her colleagues and they were all like WTF? - no way we're hiring that girl. Which is curious. I wonder if some of these helicopter parents have the self-awareness to understand how negatively such behavior is viewed and that it makes their children look unprepared and spoiled. I suppose not.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:44 AM on August 23, 2010 [38 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've seen this story before (and from a time when "helicopter parents" had not yet been coined).

Meh. Helicopters are old news anyway. If they really wanted to portray this as a recent trend, they should've called them "spy drone parents" or "quadracopter parents".
posted by daniel_charms at 4:44 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Every September, I have a few freshmen who "apply" for jobs here at the library with parents in tow. Well, really what happens is the parent applies for the job and the kid just slouches there, sometimes emitting a one word answer to asked questions. I never offer these kids a job, but the downside of that is I have their hovering parents calling me up to ask about the status of their kid's application. I try to play them off as much as possible, because when I tell one of these parents that I will not be hiring their kid because he or she didn't seem interested in the job, did not interview well, and let them do all the talking, the chances of the parent calling up the Dean to complain is pretty high.

I'm not sure what the parent thinks is going to be the outcome of that act. "Oh, hey, well since you called my boss's boss to complain that your kid will not be working at the library, that suddenly makes him so much more qualified!"

My other student employees won't let me roll over and just throw the kid a few hours to make their parents go away - they know that they'll be the ones picking up the slack when Junior spends all his time playing PopCap games rather than checking out books. They flag helicopter parent applications and will, upon turning them in to me, say, "Ghet too thuh choppah!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [93 favorites]


What concerns me is that the young people in question don't seem to have any shame at all about bringing their parent(s) to a job interview or to their first class. Clearly peer pressure is a lost art.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:48 AM on August 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Helicopter parents who are unable to let go until forced to by institutions that don't want to deal with them are the direct cause of binge drinking. If the first chance your kid has to make a choice and deal with the consequences on his/her own is at a keg party, you've done a poor job.
posted by Plutor at 4:59 AM on August 23, 2010 [30 favorites]


Helicopter parents? Bah! Come to mean when you've had to read Children of the Self Absorbed in order to retain a little mental sanity.
posted by Neale at 5:05 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wait! Parents bring their "children" to job interviews!? Not to the door, or by car, but into the room?! Is that what I am hearing? That is INSANE. I have trouble believing any adult would think this is a good idea, let alone actually doing it. Apparently there is more than one parent that does this. Mind = Blown.
posted by milarepa at 5:10 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not that I would expect my folks to have that type of anxiety, both because of their own merits and that I'm a second child, but what was a good way for mom to get over her worries of having both kids away, was that she drove me up to university, which is about 2000 km/2 days of travel [she also visited my sister and aunt on vacation, mind you]. Tons of time to get used to the idea.

Then move-in could just consist of helping me bring my things into the room, meeting my dorm-mate, and taking me to the liquor store to stock up since I was still too young to buy for myself. We, along with everyone I know, skipped the "parting ceremony" crap because we had things to do.

C'mon, bad parents, grow up.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:10 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]



What concerns me is that the young people in question don't seem to have any shame at all about bringing their parent(s) to a job interview or to their first class. Clearly peer pressure is a lost art.


If your parents smoked pot and moshed to punk rock, rebellion is going to be a lot less sharply defined.
posted by acb at 5:28 AM on August 23, 2010 [16 favorites]


My father-in-law is the president a small Catholic university. The week before a new fall semester a few years ago, a mother of an incoming freshman boy called his office and asked to speak with him. His assistant at the time, a 70-year-old nun, explained that the president was out of the country at the time and asked if she could help.

The mother responded that before she could send her son to school there, she needed a personal guarantee from the president of the university that her son would not have sex during the school year.

The nun took a breath and said "Lady, I just celebrated my fiftieth anniversary of joining the convent and he would not guarantee you that I am not going to have sex this year."

The woman hung up on her, but her son showed up to move in the next week.
posted by elvissa at 5:33 AM on August 23, 2010 [267 favorites]


Being a parent, I don't understand helicopter parents. Helping the kids unpack at college? Making their bed? We were like "Oooh, nice room, your roommate seems nice, have fun, CALL before coming home, we might be naked in the living room, ok? If you get arrested for something, you're spending at least a night in jail, as a learning experience. Love you, bye! PS: No we don't have any more money. You have a room, a bed, meal plan and books, as you've had for 18 years. There should be a job board somewhere around campus if you need more. Let us know you're alive every now and then! xoxo"
posted by nomadicink at 5:34 AM on August 23, 2010 [39 favorites]


it's not that the kids don't have have any shame, the PARENTS don't have any shame - or self-awareness as someone else mentioned.

it's kind of like when Namond's mom kept going to Bodie (sp?) on The Wire and Namond was all embarrassed by it. but he couldn't stop her. Bodie did not want Namond working for him cause Namond didn't work, but he couldn't argue with Namond's Mom, she didn't believe her kid couldn't do it or was slacking. (also, she wanted the money - but same thing - the pushy bossy parents want their kids to do something for the them, the parents, not the kids themselves.)

pushy, bossy parents have been around forever.
posted by sio42 at 5:35 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My sister has a friend that, at 25 years old, has never lived outside of her parents' house. She went to a local college and lived at home. She got a job and continued to live at home. She has a curfew. Her parents call to check on her when she leaves.

What a miserable life that must be.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:41 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


No, seriously: no shame. I also work in a university library, and I've encountered this a few times. Kid is setting up for class, and kid + mother arrives on my doorstep. Who asks the questions? Mom. I try to address the answers to the kid, who says little if anything, except to smile and wave while leaving. No shame at all. No embarrassment, no flitting question on their faces. This is just pure normalcy for them, apparently.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:41 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I"m curious about those employers/hiring people who have had parents show up. Do you ever just ask them to leave?

A few years ago, I was running a training program and had one candidate who blew the mail-in deadlines, was hard to reach on the phone, etc. So I finally sent her a letter telling her she was no longer a candidate (It was a long and cumbersome process). Her mother, who worked for the same company, showed up unannounced in my office, accompanied by another friend/work colleague, and started arguing. I listened for far longer than I should and then told them that the matter was settled and that I could not discuss her (25-year-old) daughter's application. They left, not happy, but that was the end of it.
posted by etaoin at 5:41 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If your parents smoked pot and moshed to punk rock, rebellion is going to be a lot less sharply defined.

Yeah, move in day at Hampshire was distinctly not marked by this kind of "helicopter parent" stuff. If anything, a lot of the parents (not all, but certainly a sizeable number) were the ones looking for weed in the dorms.

I don't remember a single parent sticking around for orientation activities, but hey, this was ten years ago and at hippie college. This whole phenomenon is as foreign to me as... well, speaking Japanese or something really foreign.
posted by sonika at 5:44 AM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


See also: What is it about 20-somethings?

Amanda Marcott:
When I first read this article in the NY Times Magazine about how 20-somethings are delaying the supposed markers of adulthood---marriage, kids, financial independence---longer than they had in the past, I thought that the main flaw of it was that it didn’t address why financial independence was so hard to achieve. By casting the entire situation as a matter of desire and choice, the author missed the big picture, which is that people delay adulthood because the ability to be an adult requires a certain amount of privilege increasingly unavailable to young people. I tweeted about it at the time, noting the answer to the question, “Why don’t people grow up faster?” is incredibly, stupidly simple---because they are no longer any jobs for people in their early 20s that provide the means to be a full adult. Full stop.
...
Which is why I saw red when I read this smarmy, self-righteous screed from some Baby Boomer. It’s a classic example of being born on third and thinking you hit a triple. She assumes that her ability to pay rent with her first job out of college is strictly because she’s so much more fucking awesome than you spoiled kids these days, and her parents were so much more responsible than the softies of today. For a millisecond, she ponders the possibility that things have changed because of financial constraints, but then dismisses that possibility with a handwave. It’s so much more fun to be self-righteous!
9% unemployment means getting a job isn't easy. You see the same thing in Japan, kids living with their parents for a long time after graduation, unable to get jobs and so on. It's like people are totally oblivious to the relationship between the economy and culture
posted by delmoi at 5:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [134 favorites]


I'm not sure what the parent thinks is going to be the outcome of that act. "Oh, hey, well since you called my boss's boss to complain that your kid will not be working at the library, that suddenly makes him so much more qualified!"

That's not their reasoning. Their goal is to punish anyone who dares stand in the way of the child achieving the greatness that the parent has planned out for them. And "God Damnit! You are standing in their way!"
posted by Tavern at 5:48 AM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


When left for college, my parents didn't even go with me. I packed up my $200 car and drove the the four hour trip on my own. I came back for holidays and the summers and called once a week or so.
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't really have helicopter parents so much as a neurotic parent. She worries about everything. Luckily, I had the self-will to actually resist and self-actualize.

I know a girl through work who went to a college 40 minutes away... and couldn't handle it. Her roommates drank(!) and had sex(!) and stayed up late(!) and she just couldn't take it. She's back at home, driving her dad to work every day since he has such terrible eyesight, and acting/looking more like a seventy year old woman than a twenty year old.

It's remarkably depressing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:52 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm curious about those employers/hiring people who have had parents show up. Do you ever just ask them to leave?

I can't speak definitively for Mrs. AHaWO, but I do remember that when she told me the story about the mother showing up for her daughter's interview, the first thing I asked her was why she didn't just tell the mother to leave. Basically, it was awkward and she wasn't quite sure what was going on, and as soon as she figured out that the mother was there to essentially do the interview for the daughter, she realized that she wasn't going to hire the daughter anyway and so she just rolled with it and ended the interview as quickly as possible. She figured that asking the mother to leave would have caused more problems than it would have solved.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:52 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, many "kids" the exact same age are having a very different helicopter experience.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 5:56 AM on August 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


Populated by peer- pressure based fraternities/sororities, binge drinking "traditions", religious/army evangecruiters, a college is an heck of an interesting place to be, if you manage to avoid the above mentioned.

Surely it is not by throwing the youngster into this crowd, in a misguided attempt to apply a misunderstanding of Darwin's natural selection, that the youngster is going to learn how to avoid these pitfalls.

The polar opposite environment, that is a sterylized church'n'study environment, is probably dangerous as it doesn't reflect workplace environment or contemporary society.

The problem is smoothing these extremes: the help of a well-rounded parent surely comes in handy, instead of self making every possible mistake they may have made, while surely experiecing some adaptation difficulties first-hand beats being completely guided by these who indeed are overanxious "helicopter" parents.
posted by elpapacito at 5:56 AM on August 23, 2010


In exchange for tuition, we were sold to the university for biological experimentation. And did we complain? Like fun we did! We were just happy that they had drilled breathing holes in the shipping crates!
posted by pracowity at 5:56 AM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


The mom in the article who confesses to reading books about coping with grief just made me feel so bad for her kid. Instead of celebrating a new chapter in her kid's life (and congratulating herself for raising a person who can handle this new challenge), she considers it a time to grieve. And somehow it minimizes the horrible things in life that can create genuine grief.
posted by dzaz at 5:57 AM on August 23, 2010 [28 favorites]


NY Times trend pieces are the knock knock jokes of journalism.
posted by srboisvert at 6:03 AM on August 23, 2010 [53 favorites]


My college freshman son had a friends actually tell him that I was a "terrible mother" because I am the opposite of a helicopter parent! I've been telling him (mostly jokingly) "18 and out!" for most of his life, but the job market tanked in MI just as he was off to school, and I had to relocate to work.

The critical friend has, of course, parents that hover over all her actions and decisions.
posted by kidelo at 6:09 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


A different kind of "helicopter parent"
With very limited use of her arms and legs, Kelsey Rozema has needed her parents' help with most daily tasks — getting out of bed, showering, putting on a coat and even opening a water bottle. In 18 years, they've been apart for only six nights.

So moving into a college dorm this week — and away from the reliance on her family — is even more of a milestone for Rozema than for the thousands of other wide-eyed freshmen arriving this week at the University of Illinois
posted by muddgirl at 6:10 AM on August 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


kidelo: the friend's parents have probably been telling her how great they are at parenting for eighteen years. That's part of the MO—convince your children that they couldn't wish for a better parent. Look how much effort they put in, after all. For them, parenting is a stage show designed primarily for boosting their self-esteem through the wonderful possibilities of living vicariously through their children.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:13 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


I went through orientation with my daughter for about 2 hours while she got her ID, room assignment, key, etc. but I was pretty much an accessory for holding stuff. Her school has a rather effective parent-separating protocol: they relieved me of so much of my money I could not afford a second night in a hotel, so had to head for home as soon as her stuff was out of the car. My utility in the dorm room was in that I had a height advantage and could put her wireless router *up there.* "Bye Daddy! Love ya!"

Sure, I teared up a little as I drove away, but I wondered a little bit about her roommate's mom, dad and brother, who were staying a week.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:13 AM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


My father was utterly delighted to cut me loose at age 18. He also refused to pay to send me to music school, which is what I wanted to do. So, I just moved out and got a job. He pretty much left me to my own devices after that, and when he died, he didn't leave me one fuckin red cent. So, um, what do you call that kind of parent? Certainly not a helicopter. I guess he was, let's see... a... I dunno, I can't think of an appropriate vehicle, aerial or otherwise.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 AM on August 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I have to disagree with delmoi only a little bit-- unemployment does make it harder for 20z to make it on their own, but it's still hard for me (personal prejudice) to imagine NOT doing anything necessary to move out of your parents' house.

So money is certainly a discouragement, but what I see is a decreased motivation; not that they don't want to leave, but the same cord that prevents parents from letting go also keeps the 20z from trying. It's like being with a girl and knowing the relationship is over, so you both put in another 5 years.

Inertia, I think, is more important than the money. Which is a shame because there's a lot you can do in your twenties that you can't do later (e.g. fail; work at Starbucks; room with other people, move to new places, etc.)

And that inertia comes from parents handling too much of their kids' lives, which leads to the 20z not knowing what to do with their freedom when they get it. So they either go nuts, or find an artificial way to impose rules on themselves (like staying home, join military, get suddenly religious) to avoid the vertigo.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 6:16 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Reading articles like this make me SO APPRECIATIVE of my normal, hands-off parents.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:16 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Which is why I saw red when I read this smarmy, self-righteous screed from some Baby Boomer. It’s a classic example of being born on third and thinking you hit a triple.

This cracked me up. Good luck ever convincing a boomer that their good fortune has been anything other than the results of hard work and raw ability, though.

I see the helicopter parents every year, and friends who are professors tell me that there has definitely been a trend for the worst over the past decade or so. I can remember how awkward it was when I was a TA in grad school and a parent would show up at office hours to argue for a better grade for little Johnnie or Suzie. Happily there are legal barriers to talking to them about the specifics, but it was incredibly uncomfortable to be sitting there as a barely-paid beginning TA and having to say "no" repeatedly to a high powered lawyer or executive who was furious about Junior's A-.
posted by Forktine at 6:19 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oh man, muddgirl, that article was awesome. Thanks for posting it!
posted by sonika at 6:21 AM on August 23, 2010


9% unemployment means getting a job isn't easy. You see the same thing in Japan, kids living with their parents for a long time after graduation, unable to get jobs and so on.

This makes some sense, but I think oversimplifies the problem. You don't see this kind of delayed adolescence in developing countries, for instance, and they have way more competition for jobs (not to mention less access to education & health services). And even in our own country before labor laws were enacted, before the rise of the middle class, kids had to grow up quick. You can see it in their faces in old photographs: teenagers that look like 30-somethings, presumably because most of them were already married with child by age 20.

The bigger question for me is why does this problem only appear with first world nations?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:21 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah like this is new. When I was a freshman >25 years ago, orientation week started Monday morning with a presentation for parents at the opposite end of campus from what the students were doing. The parent presentation ended after an hour, after which the parents were told their kids would be very busy the rest of the week, sorry we don't have anything else for you, but please feel free to walk around at look at the lovely buildings.
posted by erniepan at 6:23 AM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


How one school dealt with this type of parent (not saying I agree with it all, but parts of it are darn funny).
posted by dzaz at 6:26 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm so glad my parents aren't like this. They so easily could have been. I'm an only child and a girl and I was a sensitive, eccentric, spoiled kid. I was the "come and get me" kid on every overnight school trip in elementary school. Come and get me, dad--they are making me eat pizza. Come and get me, dad--they are making me sleep in a room with other people. By 18, when my parents dropped me off at college at NYU, I thought I was over that phase.

Then we got to my dorm room. We'd gotten to lottery for dorms, and I thought I'd lucked out. I'd heard that the dorm I got was one of the nicest (Hayden Hall, for those in the know about NYU). When I was 18, I was sheltered and perhaps delusional, and I had no concept of what a "nice" dorm entailed, so in my mind, I imagined a really fancy hotel suite. The things I pictured. I was so excited. A nice room! I would live in a nice room! So we got there, and my dorm room was fairly large and had character and nice dark wood floors, but it was dusty and shabby and old and had stained walls (you know, like a college dorm room). And my parents and I stood there with all of our suitcases, and my roommate had gotten there before me and taken the good side of the room, and I felt the tears well up an I said "I can't live here. You have to take me home. I'm not staying here. I'll stay in the hotel tonight with you and then we can all go home. This is a terrible mistake and I am not staying here."

And my parents looked at each other, and looked at me, and my mom said "oh, but yes you are" and then they left. I always view that exact moment , strangely, as the cutting of the cord. It was fine and then later I became a grown up. I still wonder what would have happened to me if they would have let me refuse to ever go to college because my dorm room wasn't a hotel suite.
posted by millipede at 6:30 AM on August 23, 2010 [24 favorites]


My father was utterly delighted to cut me loose at age 18. He also refused to pay to send me to music school, which is what I wanted to do. So, I just moved out and got a job. He pretty much left me to my own devices after that, and when he died, he didn't leave me one fuckin red cent. So, um, what do you call that kind of parent? Certainly not a helicopter. I guess he was, let's see... a... I dunno, I can't think of an appropriate vehicle, aerial or otherwise.

C-130 Hercules parent?
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 6:32 AM on August 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


Extended-family households were ubiquitous until the middle of the 20th century, and even after the war, my grandparents helped out a couple of cousins through hard times in adolescence and early adulthood.

Of course a key difference is that you likely were working the farm or in the sweatshops by age 16. But I think it's probably not a good idea to conflate extended-family households with extended adolescent irresponsibility.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:34 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


With home-schooling, kids never get away from Mom!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:35 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My roommate was someone I had graduated HS with. By definition, my mother would have been one of those “helicopter” parents, but thankfully, my dad was one of those “We’ll beat the traffic if we leave now and god help you if I miss the Yankees game don’t tell me I can listen to it on the radio, the AM station starts buzzing at Salamanca and you'll complain until I turn it off” parents.

Anyhow, his mother was the worst kind. I would not have roomed with the guy if I had the choice, but his mom knew my mom, and they though I was a good Catholic boy who would help keep him out of trouble. As she is telling me how the room is going to be rearranged and how we will have to run a humidifier every night, I slowly sneak out of the room to meet people I don’t want to kill. I meet a few and come back to the room with two of them (eager to meet my roommate’s sister). As we walk in, his mother is in the middle of reminding him that she put two washcloths in his shower basket, one to use on his “posterior” and one to use on the rest of his body, as to avoid “what happened at Easter.”

She meant well, but she doesn’t realize she ruined the next four years of her son’s social life.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:36 AM on August 23, 2010 [37 favorites]


My mom talked to my then-future boss about pay and hours before I started my first job.

To be fair, I was 14. After that, I did my own job-getting and pay/hours negotiations.

I knew a girl my freshman year who didn't know you were supposed to take the skin off an onion before you cut it up. Her parents drove up from Pennsylvania every weekend (to New Hampshire) to see her, and her mom did her laundry. Unsurprisingly, Diana was horribly homesick the whole term. Her parents kept trying to talk her in to transferring to a school closer to home. We talked her out of it and she settled in just fine, eventually.

My mom did make sure I could swim before she chucked me out of the boat, but chuck me she did, mostly. It was good for both of us.
posted by rtha at 6:37 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


How one school dealt with this type of parent

Not actually.
posted by pracowity at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


If your parents smoked pot and moshed to punk rock, rebellion is going to be a lot less sharply defined.

Where do you think Young Republicans come from?

I agree with those who think this trend is being exaggerated a little. I deal with parents and kids on a daily basis and I would rather see parents more involved with their children. In fact, I wonder if this over-involvement in their lives as the children are transitioning into adulthood is an attempt to make up for time not spent with them at a younger age.
posted by TedW at 6:43 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Inside Higher Ed interview with a professor who has written a book on parenting styles and social class. Her argument is that "helicopter parenting" (which she calls "parenting out of control") is an upper-middle-class phenomenon that gives elite kids some real advantages in college and perpetuates class inequality.
posted by craichead at 6:45 AM on August 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


How one school dealt with this type of parent

Not actually.


Oh, how I wanted to believe this was true (sniff).
posted by dzaz at 6:46 AM on August 23, 2010


The only reason why kids here in Amsterdam can't get jobs that will pay the rent is because they all want to live in the crazy expensive city center, since anything more than 30 minutes from the center is Not Cool. The only way to get something decent is by knowing somebody who knows somebody who... Which in turn teaches them that it's not what you know but who you know. And they end up as, hey, I dunno, English majors, literary theorists, or psychology majors, and then they wonder why they still can't find a job that will pay the rent.
posted by eeeeeez at 6:46 AM on August 23, 2010


We typically hire college students to house/dog sit for us when we go on vacation. This year's attempt to hire a particular individual was mind blowing. She was an intern at my husband's company and he was impressed by her work ethic. We offered her the stint at our place and she gave a provisional "Yes". Then the girl's father got involved. He wanted to meet us, our kids and our pets. He wanted to do a home visit to approve our neighborhood. He convinced my husband to meet to discuss the house sitting arrangement over lunch and the girl wasn't even allowed to speak during the entire hour. He wasn't a helicopter parent. He was controlling as all get out. It was shocking. I refused to allow him to even know our address much less do a home visit. I refused to meet with him or allow him to meet our kids or dogs. They offered up the girl's grandmother or her aunt to come over instead. I told them all to stuff it and hired a young man from my company instead.
posted by onhazier at 6:46 AM on August 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


You don't see this kind of delayed adolescence in developing countries...

The difference is that in America, the parental generation was able to easily get jobs that paid a living wage, and that has changed dramatically. Both of my parents got decent living wage jobs with potential for upward growth independent of a bachelor's degree. Those jobs are no longer available, even to most 20-somethings with college degrees.

On the topic of helicopter parents, I think part of it is how teens and 20's aren't treated as adults - it's a self fulfilling prophesy. For example, I went through a nightmare bureaucracy mix up while I was at college. I spent over a year doing everything in my power to figure it out. I made phone calls, e-mails, countless in person visits, everything. No one had a straight answer, no one had any responsibility. Finally, over the summer, I got an automated form letter telling me I was kicked out of my major, which would mean I would have to spend an extra year in school, wasting tens of thousands of dollars. It wasn't until that point that my mother offered to call the dean's office on my behalf (I'd called and visited plenty of times on my own). And you know what? The whole situation was fixed, quickly and easily in under 5 minutes. It still makes me mad.
posted by fermezporte at 6:51 AM on August 23, 2010 [39 favorites]


It's not the parents I don't understand, it's the kids. I mean, how mortified would I have been if my mom had called one of my profs at university to complain about my marks? Very mortified indeed. I purposely chose a university out of weekend visit range because, as much as I love and respect my parents, I wanted a fresh start, to strike out on my own, etc. Of course, I was raised from childhood with a degree of independence these kids would, apparently, regard as terrifying.

That said, when we had everything moved out of my parents' motor home and into my dorm room I practically had to shove my mom out the door. Then I went looking for girls (unsuccessfully).
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:53 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her argument is that "helicopter parenting" (which she calls "parenting out of control") is an upper-middle-class phenomenon that gives elite kids some real advantages in college and perpetuates class inequality.

We have helicopter moms in the criminal justice system, too, I call them Hovering Thug Moms and they come court and to the parole and probation building demanding to speak with parole officers, attorneys, judges, and social workers about every minute development in their kids' cases. They drive me nuuuuuuuuts, man, they blow my phone up day and night and no matter how much you explain to them that their involvement is not going to influence the outcome of their son's adult criminal case they won't back off. Usually I pawn them off on the public defender, who has paralegals and interns to run interference between her and people she doesn't have time to talk to. I would love to say that HTMs are a sign of positive family involvement in a kid's life but more often mom is pissed that her son's tied up in the system and off the corner and the household income stream is disrupted as a result.
posted by The Straightener at 6:57 AM on August 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


I purposely chose a university out of weekend visit range

My parents wouldn't pay the application fee for any place less than a four hour drive away.
posted by JPD at 7:00 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I worked in university housing for a spell, dealing with incoming freshmen & deciding where to place students based on living preferences selected in their applications. I would say an incredibly small percentage of parents, from that end, could fall into the helicopter category. But that minority could be incredibly vocal, months before the students arrived on campus. Parents who wanted to control as many aspects of their kids' college experiences.

The first phone call I received where a mother had taken to Facebook & saw that her son's roommate was clearly, clearly a Democrat, based on the sandals he was wearing & the cut of his hair & no this would just not do for her baby boy - annoying, but amusing to think she could politically cloister her son. Other phone calls I received, where based on the sound of names, parents would infer the race/ethnicity/background of roommates, & thus request dorm room transfers, would always anger me. Those calls were ultimately handled by my boss, who was smoother at handling the racists than me.
posted by Hesychia at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have one student whose mother is like this, and I was fully prepared to have to deal with a real mess.

But what I noticed was that her mother is actually all of the things my mother made it clear to us that she wasn't: Personal secretary, executive assistant, maid, chauffeur, chef, concierge, coach, etc.

So maybe there is a way for parents to do it right - this girl in my class, at 17, has the tools at hand that a high-level CEO has. She is able to focus in on the techniques and lessons without any distractions and ends up being really productive. I have no doubt that her mother would be perfectly willing to take dictation and do the research that would allow the daughter to do any number of things that she would not have time or energy for if she had to do all of the footwork and ground-laying herself. The difference is that the mother, once she researched the classes (and me) then kept out of it.

She still pops in sometimes halfway through a class with a bottle of water like a boxing coach in the third round (Three hours is too long to go without water!), but isn't (too) obtrusive otherwise.

While I appreciate that my mom raised all of us to be super independent (and as she goes into her late 50's she has admitted that she may have raised us to be too independent), I am a little jealous that this girl gets this kind of support without having to reinvent the wheel every time she wants to learn something new.
posted by Tchad at 7:06 AM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


The bigger question for me is why does this problem only appear with first world nations?


Malaysian-Chinese on one side of the family and Taiwanese on the other, did my undergrad in the US, postgrad in Australia, so I'll take a stab at this.

Granted, this is an over-generalization, but it seems to me that middle-class American parents allow their kids more choices in life compared to middle-class Asian parents. Most of my friends back home weren't given any choice as to what they could study in university - unless it was something considered "recession-proof" like law, medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, accounting or engineering, their parents would not pay for their education. I think this is partly because Asian society is still rather conservative - children are still expected to get married after college, bear grandchildren, own a house and take care of their parents in their old age, and you don't get there by being the slightest bit indulgent. Self-fulfilment is selfish.
posted by peripathetic at 7:07 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm a little late, but one of the things I hate about these articles are how classist they are. Middle class parents helping their kids? Helicopter parents! Upper class parents helping their kids? Well that's just the way things are.

Look, I think we all have stories about some rich friend who managed to get that internship or into a nice grad school program because of strings the parents pulled. We'll roll our eyes, but the second a middle class parent tries to do the same thing it is, "Helicopter parents!" The only difference in my mind, is that helicopter parents fail because their incessant badgering isn't also a big source of university grants.

The truth is that for every failed attempt at helicopter parenting, it works. I had a friend in high school that got into Yale after being on the waiting list after their parents FedEx'd overnight (!) a newspaper article the kid wrote, with full follow ups to the admissions director. They got in, and no one is saying "helicopter parents," but instead solemnly looks at one another insisting that was what had to be done.

So why doesn't the NYT do a much better article: that the rich get away with it because they can, these upper-middle class types are just emulating what they know and only fail due to their own lack of social standing.
posted by geoff. at 7:09 AM on August 23, 2010 [27 favorites]


My son's college, a small private Virginia one, actually had a short move-in time limit after which you were very definitely expected to move along and go on. I don't know what happened if forced the issue, since I'm a different kind of a bad parent.

Actually, every time I feel like a bad parent, all I have to do is pay attention to what people who think they are good parents are up to. Has there ever been any evidence that being your child's brain and spine for 18 years will do anything but cripple their chances of growing up responsibly? Where does this idea come from? On the contrary, it seems pretty obvious that being the entire crazy motive force behind your loathsome offspring turns them into useless, jellylike hangers-on, the exact opposite that the parents are trying to achieve, I'm guessing. I have three children and I literally don't get it. WTF is wrong with people?

And --with all of those insane parents out there-- someone here must be sympathetic to why these parents do this stuff and can give us a little insight. C'mon, on all of MeFi, we don't have one pushy parent who thinks they can give a good explanation of why this forcing your child to water and then yelling at the lake when he doesn't drink is smart or good or effective. We have people who defend torture and bombing and death penalties and Palin but no one on this? Despite the gagillions of these kinds of parents around? Does this mean that they are oblivious to how execrable their actions are? Or does this mean that even they realize their behavior is horrible and inexcusable and indefensible? A lot of these are smart, together, talented people, what is their freaking excuse? Don't they see with their eye parts? Even if their massive assholery has some slight effect, is it worth what it turns their kid into?
posted by umberto at 7:09 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Middle class parents helping their kids? Helicopter parents! Upper class parents helping their kids? Well that's just the way things are.


Wait what? where does it say this?

Also making phone calls to contacts to help you kid out /=/ helicopter parenting.
posted by JPD at 7:12 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


> So maybe there is a way for parents to do it right - this girl in my class, at 17, has the tools at hand that a high-level CEO has. She is able to focus in on the techniques and lessons without any distractions and ends up being really productive.

The real test for this girl will be the day when her mother can't provide all of these services for her. I'm picturing a table with one leg missing.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:12 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's not the parents I don't understand, it's the kids. I mean, how mortified would I have been if my mom had called one of my profs at university to complain about my marks?

I do think there's an element of not knowing that what you're growing up with isn't right/normal.

I have a neighbor who is 43 years old and the mother of three children. Her mother still controls her. She used to call me all the time after her daily phone call with her mom, all upset because her mother had criticized what she was feeding the kids for lunch or her decision to stay home from her husband's work party because she was pregnant with twins and exhausted. Her parents bought her furniture when they moved into the house, paid for her car, and treat her and her family to an annual vacation in Florida--this means that she complains all the time about not having the furniture she wants, and the vacation not being the vacation she would choose if it were up to her.

Admittedly, my neighbor is more neurotic than most, but she seriously cannot hear solutions like, "maybe you shouldn't talk to your mom on the phone every day, why does your mom even know what you're serving your kids for lunch or doing on a Saturday evening?"

Mostly I'm just taking the opportunity to vent here because sometimes my neighbor drives me nuts. And because just in case we're playing a game of "who has the most extreme story of parental hovering," I might win with my entry. 43 years old, people!

My parents wouldn't pay the application fee for any place less than a four hour drive away.

I went to college about an hour from home, but my mom told me, "Now, don't think you're going to be one of those kids who comes home every weekend." (I would have liked this better coupled with an expression of affection--it felt really hurtful to me at the time, though now I get what she was trying to say, which was a) your dad and I are ready to get on with our lives, and b) so should you. But we don't do expressions of affection in my birth family, so what are you gonna do?)

(Of course, they were also very frugal, so part of my mom's motivation might have been, "We're paying a mint for that dorm room, and every night you don't sleep there is a waste of our money.")

I haven't read the link up-thread yet that mentioned social class. What is the transition to adulthood looking like these days for working-class young adults? Are they spending more time living with parents? How is that changing with the downturn? Have they traditionally spent more time living with parents (my grandma and grandpa lived with her parents until after their third child was born because they couldn't afford a place of their own, 70+ years ago, and my mom grew up with relatives moving in and out of the house all the time. Is that typical?)?
posted by not that girl at 7:15 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also making phone calls to contacts to help you kid out /=/ helicopter parenting.

I was making generalizations about NYT articles. Next week they'll have some article about what crazy thing you have to do to get into an elite college and it won't be under the label "helicopter parents." There's a clear double standard.
posted by geoff. at 7:15 AM on August 23, 2010


Trial By Media--that was my life through college. I regret not going away. As soon as I got that degree, it was totally "see ya". Looked back once (unemployed, no where to live), the day my mom went into my purse and threw out my birth control because you know "IT CAUSES CANCER" then proceeded to call my ex fiance at his work to barrade him it was "see ya part II, electric boogaloo." Although this time, I didn't give them my new address/phone number. Ahhhh peace at last.
posted by stormpooper at 7:16 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


A university could stem the tide of this by getting militant or super-expansive about FERPA compliance. You would need an idealistic president willing to go through a lawsuit, but just declare everything an educational record.

"Sorry, we can't tell you your child's dorm number, it's federally protected."
"Sorry ma'am, you can't sit in on the interview, student interviews are federally protected."
"I can't tell you whether Jimmy's tryout went well, you would need him to sign a waiver."

You could make the procedures for getting FERPA waivers for parents difficult too. Never have a blanket waiver, require a bunch of signatures, send kids to multiple offices. Then you're not shutting the parent out as a matter of rule, you're making the choice a lot less palatable.

"Ma'am, if you'd like to sit in on the interview, you'll need to have Jane fill out this form and get it signed by the registrar across campus, in triplicate, then take two copies for the dean of students and have those signed, then come back and wait in line. But I have to warn you, by then we'll probably have filled up all the jobs we have for the semester."

I know, I know, if helicopter parents are good at anything, it's penetrating a bureaucracy. But it's worth a shot.
posted by Taco John at 7:19 AM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


See also: What is it about 20-somethings?

What is it about baby-boomers? They're all like "What's up with this future generation whos future we ruined with our greed and foolishness?"
posted by fuq at 7:19 AM on August 23, 2010 [47 favorites]


Next week they'll have some article about what crazy thing you have to do to get into an elite college and it won't be under the label "helicopter parents." There's a clear double standard.

but doing that isn't helicopter parenting. That isn't what the term means.
posted by JPD at 7:22 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


If your parents smoked pot and moshed to punk rock, rebellion is going to be a lot less sharply defined.

Where do you think Young Republicans come from?


Oh hell yes. I have an aunt and uncle who are the last of the great hippies. They have always lived their lives in a free love, social outreach authority-questioning sort of way. Their children are living the capitalist dream and adore Stephen Harper. Kids will always find a way to rebel--rebellion just doesn't look the way it used to.
posted by Go Banana at 7:23 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do feel a little bad for the kids of these parents. I mean, sure it may seem great at the time to them that mom and pop do everything for them, but mom and pop let them down and didn't do their job in teaching them to be independent and how to make their own decisions because the parents made them for their child. So I can see how it might be frightening to suddenly not have that voice there that says "do this, do that". So this vacuum appears - "what do I do now and how do I do it?" Overreaching analogy: It's like tossing your kids in the water without a single swimming lesson - "yeah, I never taught you this life skill, but good luck anyway."

I'm glad that colleges are going this extra step to help freshmen say goodbye and cut the cord, but hope there are additional support systems and programs for the students beyond that first day goodbye to help these kids to learn how to make their own decisions and to be more independent.

(Disclaimer - NOT a helicopter kid, but had two cousins who were, it was ugly in college.)
posted by NoraCharles at 7:28 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't think of an appropriate vehicle, aerial or otherwise.

LAPES, covers it, I think.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:28 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is such total fucking bullshit. The secret is in the word 'full'. What she actually means is 'they are no longer any jobs for people in their early 20s that provide the means to live in the style to which they have been accustomed while all their bills were being paid by somebody else so they could spend their money on weed and PBR and video games'.

Cry me a river and then fuck off. Actually, just fuck off.


Exactly. My depression era grandparents sure as hell weren't footing the bill for my parents post-college because they couldn't find the "right" job.
posted by JPD at 7:29 AM on August 23, 2010


And --with all of those insane parents out there-- someone here must be sympathetic to why these parents do this stuff and can give us a little insight.

The most notorious helicopter father of my undergrad showed up at dorms all the time. But that's because he needed a steady supply of customers to sell pot to.
posted by Hesychia at 7:30 AM on August 23, 2010


unSane: That is such total fucking bullshit. The secret is in the word 'full'. What she actually means is 'they are no longer any jobs for people in their early 20s that provide the means to live in the style to which they have been accustomed while all their bills were being paid by somebody else so they could spend their money on weed and PBR and video games'.

Oh, please, The previous standard for an adult was that one could live in a decent house (probably buying it) while supporting a family on one income. An early 20-year old is not going to be within weed, PBR, and video game range of that. The only people who could do that are the ones who take specifically high-earning careers (doctor, lawyer, engineer, that sort of thing) and even they can't usually do it until their early thirties because of student loans.

Younger people in the US really are making less, relative to the last couple of generations, and in particular if they don't have a good education. You used to be able to raise a family on one income as a factory worker, for crying out loud.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:30 AM on August 23, 2010 [63 favorites]


That is such total fucking bullshit. The secret is in the word 'full'. What she actually means is 'they are no longer any jobs for people in their early 20s that provide the means to live in the style to which they have been accustomed while all their bills were being paid by somebody else so they could spend their money on weed and PBR and video games'.

Really? seriously? Speaking as a very lucky, well-off twentysomething with a lot of friends in their early 20s who are living extremely modest lives and have no support from parents whatsoever, and have zero job prospects despite constant searching, SHUT THE FUCK UP. The style to which they have been accustomed? I don't know anyone who's gotten all their bills paid by someone else much lately, because everyone's parents are equally fucked over. A lot of my friends have working-class parents from blue-collar backgrounds, and they, living with roommates and living paycheck-to-paycheck on part-time work, aren't actually doing that much better than those parents, who just experienced a delightful round of layoffs and may never find work again, with such an outdated skillset.

There are very, very few jobs available for 20somethings who doesn't already have meaningful work experience that will pay the rent and provide health insurance. This is not to say there are zero. I lucked into one. But unemployment for young people is through the fucking roof and I assure you it's not because of some awful "oh, look at the childish young people who want to live with mommy and daddy forever" laziness.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:32 AM on August 23, 2010 [101 favorites]


When I went to university a thousand years ago in Canada, between co-op works terms and state subsidies I was able to pretty much pay my own way for four years. I was effectively no longer financially dependent from the moment I left home. When you have a system where parents typically continue paying the bills for years, it doesn't surprise me that the students end up treated like children by everyone involved.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:32 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Since we’re talking about the effects of class/money in this thread – as we should – I have to say I’m surprised that there has been so little acknowledgment in the thread that for many, many students, living on campus is itself an unattainable luxury (never mind “out of weekend visiting range” -- which I totally understand, and would have loved, believe me). There was no way my parents would pay for a dorm room on top of what they were putting into my (meagre, by U.S. standards) tuition. I can’t fathom an automatic expectation to live away from home on top of that. There’s a university in town? And you can bus there? (1-1.5 hours each way) Solved.

on preview: CEL has it. I'd saved (from since I was 12) for university, but that got me books and some expenses. It wouldn't pay for rent for 4 years, and I couldn't get a student loan.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


You don't see this kind of delayed adolescence in developing countries, for instance, and they have way more competition for jobs (not to mention less access to education & health services).

This is just not true. I mean, obviously, there's going to be a lot of variation from one area to the next: the developing world is a big-ass place, and there's really no one "way they do things" there. But there are definitely places within the developing world where what we call "helicopter parenting" is just, you know, how parents act.

So for instance, for the small-town Guatemalan families I've met, it's pretty normal to have grown children in their 20s living at home. A lot of those 20-somethings let their parents decide what they'd study in school, and are now working towards careers that were essentially picked out for them. When one gets into trouble, it's an issue for the whole family to deal with — either by bailing their kid out, or punishing him themselves, or both. None of this is seen as particularly embarrassing or infantilizing, as far as I can tell. (I mean, I met individuals who didn't get along with their parents that well and were itching to move out, but there doesn't seem to be a general sense that You're Not A Grownup If You Live With Mom.) It's certainly not seen as any sort of moral crisis. It's just that being a full-grown adult doesn't put you above the need to respect your elders, or prevent you from accepting help when it's offered.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Addendum: I was a bit more shouty above than I needed to be, and I apologize for that. But I have close friends who are frankly not that far off from getting evicted, and who absolutely have all the right skills to conduct a job search in terms of writing resumes, interviewing, etc, but who are at the start of their hypothetical careers and thus are not able to get anything other than really crappy part-time no-benefits gigs that don't actually pay enough to cover rent plus individual-market health insurance. They are not lazy, their families aren't paying their bills, but they are fucked by the economy and the fact that every entry-level job they apply for finds them competing with people twice their age. So claims that "kids these days just want to live at home and smoke pot" strike pretty close to home for me, given that "kids these days" are me and my friends.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:39 AM on August 23, 2010 [22 favorites]


Oh, please, The previous standard for an adult was that one could live in a decent house (probably buying it) while supporting a family on one income. An early 20-year old is not going to be within weed, PBR, and video game range of that. The only people who could do that are the ones who take specifically high-earning careers (doctor, lawyer, engineer, that sort of thing) and even they can't usually do it until their early thirties because of student loans.

Ignoring the 02-06 bubble home prices as a % of median income have been pretty consistent. What's changed is savings rate (aka. buying IPhones, Video Games and Weed) and yes, education costs.

posted by JPD at 7:39 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently got an email inquiry (fairly long in length) asking about open job/internship opportunities from a recent Northwestern University graduate's aunt. I couldn't figure out if she was doing it on her own or if the grad knew about it. I felt really embarrassed for him.
posted by anniecat at 7:41 AM on August 23, 2010


On the topic of helicopter parents, I think part of it is how teens and 20's aren't treated as adults - it's a self fulfilling prophesy. For example, I went through a nightmare bureaucracy mix up while I was at college. [...] It wasn't until that point that my mother offered to call the dean's office on my behalf (I'd called and visited plenty of times on my own). And you know what? The whole situation was fixed, quickly and easily in under 5 minutes. It still makes me mad.

Yeah, I've experienced this, too. I had a mix-up with my financial aid and I sent many emails, made many calls, all to be completely brushed off and eventually outright ignored. Finally (after hearing about my frustration with the process) my mom wrote ONE e-mail and suddenly they're falling over themselves to fix their mistake. WTF.

I wonder if it's a result of administrations getting so used to helicopter parenting they won't give a fuck unless a parent is involved. I hope not, if so that's a pretty vicious cycle.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I agree with those who think this trend is being exaggerated a little. I deal with parents and kids on a daily basis and I would rather see parents more involved with their children.

I work at a university, and I guess I don't mind parents who are involved with their kids. What I find frustrating are parents who are the voices of their children, doing all their thinking and planning and talking when I think that developing these skills for him or herself is part of the college experience we’re trying to provide to the student.

It's somewhat understandable during the high-school college tour, though I do get tired of talking to mom while the kid slumps in a chair, bored as hell, fingers twitching reflexively because at lest mom made him out his phone away. It's a little more frustrating during freshman orientation, when the dad calls me a bunch of times to micro-manage test scores and doesn't even bother to copy his kid (the student) on the emails he sends me. I really start to lose patience with the parent when I get the worried or controlling calls about normal college stuff during the student’s first year. And that’s when I try to cut the parent off, by politely deflecting them while offering cheerfully to talk directly with the kid, all the while hoping the parent doesn’t go ballistic and try to get me fired.

But where we really draw the line, and a warning for any high-school or college-aged kids reading this, if your mommy or daddy is involved controlling your MS or PhD application to our department, you will NOT get an offer from our program and we will make fun of you for hours in our admissions meetings.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I graduated high school a few days after turning 17 (in January) and fled to college in March -- no waiting 'til September for me, thankyouverymuch -- see ya, parents! I relied on a tiny scholarship, my small college fund and then student loans to cover everything -- no money from my parents. (Ok, yes, mom would send a little spending money now and then, but we're talking 20s not 100s).

I got out of school, went to grad school and worked a full time job on top of TA'ing (for free tuition + a small stipend)...so we're talking 60-hr weeks before I even did my own schoolwork. I lived at home that year so I could save up, and put a down payment on a house when I was 22. My parents were there when I needed them, but they weren't helicoptery, and I think I ended up a hell of a lot more stable, well-adjusted and financially sensible than I would have been if they'd been micromanaging my life. I just can't see how parents think this behavior is a good idea.

If my mom had come to a job interview with me, I'd never have made a living, because she's willing to settle for a lot less than I am!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2010


What is it about baby-boomers? They're all like "What's up with this future generation whos future we ruined with our greed and foolishness?"

Haha! Exactly. Doesn't it strike anyone as weird that these articles are like: "Hey boomers! What's the deal with kids today? Their stupid boomer parents are way too clingy! If only they were as awesome as us boomers... whose parents didn't do this... even though it's our generation who is acting poorly... uhhh, in summary, young people suck!"

It's like they notice a messed-up trend with themselves but are physically incapable of writing an article suggesting that boomers might not be made out of unicorn farts, so they need to find a way to spin it as a flaw of the younger generations. How fun that they get to claim both moral superiority for the way their parents raised them and condemn their children for the way they are being raised.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:50 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


More data - unemployment rates for 25-29 year olds with bachelor's degrees are high, but are not as high as they were during the '82 recession. Maybe we can find a helicopter parenting article from the times in '82? I have no idea. I suspect unemployment rates for this cohort were even higher in early 70's recession given the huge supply of recent college graduates.

So graduating from school at a shitty time makes you unlucky, but it isn't an unprecedented thing.
posted by JPD at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2010


Durn Bronzefist: Most certainly. In my old hometown, the local hero is the university administrator who anticipated the G. I. Bill and Marshall Plan and spent a ton of University money on student housing and humanities departments, resulting in the explosive growth of the University and the surrounding community.

Before then, my partner's father just told a story about his first job. His employers not only groomed their sons to take over the family business, they also hired matchmakers to ensure that their sons married proper Greek wives. It wasn't that long ago that the siblings who stayed at home to keep the family farm/business going were the responsible ones.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2010


Despite the overall shadiness of NY Times trend stories (the laughingstock of journalism, as someone upthread mentioned), there are interesting ideas buried in these articles.

First: Helicopter parents suck. My university kicked out the parents after 8 p.m. on move-in day, after a student-parent dinner which I imagine was arranged to be a subtle good-bye ceremony. My parents left, and I was happy. Not all college students want helicopter parents, and some aren't self-assured enough to stick up for themselves. They don't want their mother or father hovering around after move-in day, but they can't stand up for themselves. Overbearing parents create weak children who can't stand up to their helicopter parents.

But the other NY Times article did hit upon an interesting point, which is obtaining "adulthood" is difficult; when our parents grew up, post-collegiate options were expanding. They were seeing the possibilities that come with young adulthood — you can travel, you can explore your career options, you can take time to fuck around. You can work a menial job for a year and save up. And their dreams for their children are even grander, because they want even better opportunities for them, but with the economy and the job market, it's just not possible. By some people, twenty-somethings are expected to travel, to explore, to live in city centers, to experience everything before they determine who they are. And that's a lot of pressure for people, and many of them handle it very poorly. They move back home, or try to live off their parent's money in an exciting city just to have the experiences their parents expect for them.

That is such total fucking bullshit. The secret is in the word 'full'. What she actually means is 'they are no longer any jobs for people in their early 20s that provide the means to live in the style to which they have been accustomed while all their bills were being paid by somebody else so they could spend their money on weed and PBR and video games'.

There are no longer jobs for people in their early 20s at all. Huge swaths of the population will be entirely passed over in the job market, hurting them for most of their lives. Your incredibly narrow, stereotypical scope of an entire generation is laughable. Those with solid jobs like to act superior and pretend there are jobs for those who look and don't slag off, but that's simply untrue. There are 20-somethings who want to spend all their money on weed and PBR and video games but there are lots of 20-somethings who want a good job, and are looking hard for one, and have to balance that with the expectations of their parents and older generations and their peers, and it's not easy.

I'd also note that living in NYC with a lot of friends working those menial jobs to support themselves until they find "the right job," no one I know is getting support from their parents at all. I still think this figure is highly exaggerated; there are a lot of 20somethings here scraping by in Yorkville or Harlem or far-out Brooklyn or Queens to survive and not accepting a single dime from their parents.

I recently got an email inquiry (fairly long in length) asking about open job/internship opportunities from a recent Northwestern University graduate's aunt. I couldn't figure out if she was doing it on her own or if the grad knew about it. I felt really embarrassed for him.

Honestly, if it's an aunt, he could easily have no idea. There's a tendency to coddle in the older generation, which is hard to fight — the number of "No, seriously, Aunt Joanie, please don't email your friend, or at the very least let me do it" I've fought off is pretty staggering.

It's like they notice a messed-up trend with themselves but are physically incapable of writing an article suggesting that boomers might not be made out of unicorn farts, so they need to find a way to spin it as a flaw of the younger generations. How fun that they get to claim both moral superiority for the way their parents raised them and condemn their children for the way they are being raised.

Exactly this. Believe it or not, 20-somethings are not as universally clingy and parentally-reliant and horrible as you'd like to believe.
posted by good day merlock at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2010 [16 favorites]


Those with solid jobs like to act superior and pretend there are jobs for those who look and don't slag off

Not all of us.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2010


Of course not, adamdschneider. But it certainly is popular among some segments of the working population.
posted by good day merlock at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2010


I really start to lose patience with the parent when I get the worried or controlling calls about normal college stuff during the student’s first year. And that’s when I try to cut the parent off, by politely deflecting them while offering cheerfully to talk directly with the kid, all the while hoping the parent doesn’t go ballistic and try to get me fired.
Huh. Are you in the U.S.? Personally, I'm a lot more worried about losing my job for violating FERPA than about some nutty parent getting me fired for refusing to discuss their kid.

I will discuss generalities with parents. "If a student failed a class, these would be his or her options." I am not allowed to discuss their kid unless the kid has signed a waiver form, and that doesn't happen very often.
posted by craichead at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Helicopter parents aren't new. We had them when I was at college 20 years ago. For that matter, the handwringing about today's 20somethings is note for note what it was for the GenXers.

I paid my way through college through work and loans, with no help from mom (who to be fair was completely broke), so when one day she called with concerns about my grades -- which they still sent to her -- I said, "Are you paying for my college? No? Then you don't get a vote." And that was pretty much the last time she attempted anything approaching helicopteration.

I informed my 11-year-old daughter that I would not be staying at her college once I dropped her off there, nor would I ever sit in on one of her job interviews. She looked at me like she was annoyed that I would have ever considered doing either of those things. I love my kid.
posted by jscalzi at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


As we walk in, his mother is in the middle of reminding him that she put two washcloths in his shower basket, one to use on his “posterior” and one to use on the rest of his body, as to avoid “what happened at Easter.”

That could have been written by David Sedaris. And is correspondingly hilarious.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Look, I think we all have stories about some rich friend who managed to get that internship or into a nice grad school program because of strings the parents pulled. We'll roll our eyes, but the second a middle class parent tries to do the same thing it is, "Helicopter parents!"

Pulling strings to get you an internship or a job interview isn't helicopter parenting.

Helicopter parenting is showing up to the job interview and not letting your kid get a word in edgewise, or showing up with your kid on the first day of the internship and loudly showing them how to work a copy machine.

Ye gods, how I love FERPA. I just want to give it a big hug.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't see this kind of delayed adolescence [i.e. Japanese people still living with their parents long after graduation] in developing countries, for instance, and they have way more competition for jobs (not to mention less access to education & health services).

Yeah, I agree with nebulawindphone on this. In my "high human development" developing country, living with your parents is normal. Nobody has any money particularly, it's so small you'd likely be moving only an hour or two away anyway, and there isn't the shame in it that there seems to be in the US. People work and contribute to the household, of course, but they tend not to move out on their own for a while. In fact, between my sister and me we could only think of one person we know who doesn't either live with their parents (at least some of the time, for those who live at or near university during the school year) or have a family of their own. (Or both.) Four mid-20s couples I know got married this summer and at least four of the people involved were living at home until their weddings. I'm sure this arrangement can be miserable for a few families, but one thing it isn't is unusual.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:26 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


As taco john noted, FERPA can go a long way in severing those unhealthy post-umbilical attachments. I also doubt that this falls strictly along class lines--the escalation level or tactics might be higher, but for example...

When I taught at a large state university, primarily commuter attendance, I regularly (about 3-4 students every semester) got emails or phone calls to the department office from parents wanting to either just check to see if their child was doing good in class or, in some cases, wanting to intercede with specifics on why an unsatisfactory progress notice for their child was unwarranted.

I always used the FERPA shield, apologized, but firmly stated that I could not discuss this matter with them and encouraged them to discuss the situation with their child. This was overwhelmingly successful (for me--I'm sure it raised the stress levels for some students and for some parents) and only once do I recall a parent pursuing the matter to the department head. He was a stand-up guy who always had our backs, and had a gentle way with parents so that he could tell them to get fucked and they would be happy for the experience.

Mrs. Bubba, also a college instructor, has not had so many parents involved, but has noted over the years a consumerist attitude from students that places all the responsibility in the relationship on the teacher and little to none on the student. Miss a final exam? Complain to the dean & get a reschedule. Miss that reschedule & a year later take it back to the same dean? Get another reschedule. Didn't get the A you thought you contracted for but didn't bother to work for? Complain to the dean. The dean in this case does not have the instructors' backs, but rather insists that every seat must be filled and has actually said things to the effect that "students learn better when you give them A's."

In other words, it isn't a one sided equation.

Our own kids, bless 'em, had to put up with parents who were chronically under-funded, and they are people I greatly admire. They are both probably closer to the poverty line than they'd like, but they enjoy life and that is the main point, innit?
posted by beelzbubba at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My father was utterly delighted to cut me loose at age 18. He also refused to pay to send me to music school, which is what I wanted to do. So, I just moved out and got a job. He pretty much left me to my own devices after that, and when he died, he didn't leave me one fuckin red cent. So, um, what do you call that kind of parent? Certainly not a helicopter. I guess he was, let's see... a... I dunno, I can't think of an appropriate vehicle, aerial or otherwise.

Lancaster Bomber parents.
posted by w0mbat at 8:35 AM on August 23, 2010


Oh, and as someone who also hires & fires, if a parent showed up at an interview, I'd offer a seat in the waiting room. If the parent insisted, I'd tell them right there that I am looking to hire N not N+1, and unless they are actually offering to show up on the job with N for the length of the employment term, then now is the time to go. If that isn't satisfactory, then you can both go. Now.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is anyone not reading into how middle- and upper-class normative this article is? I know, I know, "welcome to the NY Times". Still, I wish our students had helicopter parents like these.

Our students have to work to support themselves. Our students have to work to support their families (sometimes their own children!) Our students have to learn how to work the crappy city bus system so they can get to academic events. Our students have parents in jail or worse, parents who couldn't care less about them. Did I mention I work with high school students?

I wish our students could have the helicopter experience, just to see what it's like to have a parent with the time, resources, and ability to care about you.
posted by Ndwright at 8:42 AM on August 23, 2010 [16 favorites]


The previous standard for an adult was that one could live in a decent house (probably buying it) while supporting a family on one income.

Bullshit, again. That was true for a small section of society in a certain economic time in a certain restricted geographical area. You have believed too much 50s TV. For someone in NYC in their early 20s the standard was a room in a shared rooming house where you cooked your meals on a one-ring stove, and maybe one night out a week.

You know, it may come as a surprise but some of use actually used to be twentysomething graduates in a world of steep unemployment. In 1988, just graduated from Oxford with a good degree, my day job was cleaning toilets. I wouldn't say I didn't complain, but when your parents don't have money to give you because they're too busy surviving, that's what you do.
posted by unSane at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pulling strings to get you an internship or a job interview isn't helicopter parenting.

Helicopter parenting is showing up to the job interview and not letting your kid get a word in edgewise, or showing up with your kid on the first day of the internship and loudly showing them how to work a copy machine.


Right. I think that's the point. I went to an elite college and so did my parents and I know how to comport myself "properly" and so when I take steps, somewhere down the road, to give my kids a boost in life, the Times isn't going to attach a derisive epithet to my parenting.

In any event, I've been teaching and advising first-year college students for 13 years now and I've never encountered one of these "helicopter parents." Never had a parent ask me what course their kid should take. Never had a parent e-mail me. I've sometimes met parents who accompanied their high-school kids on college visits, but I don't really think that's inappropriate.

I don't doubt that there are a few ultraneurotics, as there have always been, but I see no difference in the aggregate between parents now and parents when I went to college in the early 1990s.
posted by escabeche at 8:49 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Poor Namond.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I became way more copacetic about my own parents' slight helicopter tendencies when I realized that they were just trying to do a better job for my sister and me than their own parents did for them. Both had the kicked-out-of-the-nest-at-18, pay-for-everything-yourself young adulthoods that the Kids These Days factions idealize, and while they learned how to manage money early, they both ended up emotionally cut off from their parents for basically their entire twenties. I'm sure my generation will find some way to sufficiently fuck up our own kids so that they behave uniquely annoyingly toward their own children, but at least it's all coming from love.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:52 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I recently attended a transfer orientation at my local state university because I'm going back to school - at first I was like "oh, cool, there's some older folks here, too. I feel less awkward around all these 19-20 year olds."

Then I realized they were almost all a man and woman sandwiched around a 20 year old. Yep, at least three and more like six students had brought both parents to orientation with them, two months before the start of the school year. And these aren't freshmen, they're transfer kids. This orientation wasn't covering anything not covered in packets of info sent out beforehand - it was mostly just picking your classes.
posted by kpht at 9:04 AM on August 23, 2010


I've never encountered one of these "helicopter parents."

I cannot tell you how jealous that makes me. I'm a middle school sped teacher, and almost every day I face:

* teenage kids who need to call home and have their parents bring in their forgotten homework, lunch, special pencils, etc.
* irate parent phone calls because their kid got detention and they had to walk 1/4 mile home
* parents demanding their kid be tested for a disability because they couldn't do homework (but the kid has never asked a teacher for help)
* kids who are enrolled in unnecessary special education services because it's cheaper than fighting the parents' threatened lawsuits
* parental notes explaining their kid didn't do the homework because they were too tired from extracurricular activities
* parents who bring in lawyers and/or educational advocates for initial IEP meetings but won't allow their teenager to join the meeting.

I see way too many capable kids being set up as delicate flowers who can't problem solve to save their lives.
posted by dzaz at 9:07 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we just un-demonize the bed-making and drawer-arranging at drop-off? It is extremely hard to say goodbye to your kids, kids. You are acutely aware that this is It. As a non-helicopter parent but one who is close to both my children (24 and 20), I knew it was time to go gracefully and let them Live Their Lives. I'll be damned if I wasn't gonna make their beds and straighten their drawers one final time.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:08 AM on August 23, 2010 [20 favorites]


C'mon, on all of MeFi, we don't have one pushy parent who thinks they can give a good explanation of why this forcing your child to water and then yelling at the lake when he doesn't drink is smart or good or effective.

Not a helicopter parent. I have dealt with students who have helicopter parents and don't approve of the behavior, can't tell you why it happens in all cases, but have some untested hypotheses if you care to entertain them.

Before I do, however, I should share that I believe that there is a spectrum of "helicopter parent" behavior and generalizations that narrow it down to one or two cause and effect scenarios isn't really addressing the complexity of the problem. I believe that it involves everything from the lack of agreed upon transition rituals in our culture where a child becomes an adult and the parents officially "back off", the increasingly difficult job market for inexperienced/younger workers, the Baby Boomers really not understanding how their success also had a lot to do with the economic events of their generation, the exponential increase in "how to parent" literature coupled with increased attention around evaluating parenting that has been prevalent since the 1920's (which really gained traction in the 1940's), etc. But this is all personal opinion. Would love for a historian or social policy expert to chime in here.

1) "Swapping One Problem for Another Parent": The parent who focuses entirely on the kid to make up for a lack of something in their own life where they feel that they have less control (meeting their own expectations/goals, lack of satisfaction in their marriage or other personal relationships, etc.) (Includes the type of parent known as the "Second Chance at Life Parent".

2) "Not Tolerant of Any Failure...Ever Parent": The parent who can absolutely not let their child (or themselves!) fail at anything. They will take over to make sure it gets done right, dammit, so shut up Bobby and let Mommy handle this already. (Mostly a problem when paired with the "Kid Who Gives Up Control Because If Failure Occurs They Can Blame It On The Parent". That's a topic within itself.)

3) "The I-Will-Be-The-Best-At-This-Parenting-Thing Parent": Views parenting as a competition with other parents and evaluates success of their parenting by the ability of Little Bobby to achieve life goals that are valued by the parent and their peers (such as "Marrying the Right Person", "Going to the Best School", "Having the Right Career", "Having the Right Lifestyle", etc.)

Eh. I'm sure that there are more than those three, and feel free to add others.
posted by jeanmari at 9:09 AM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Helicopter parents? Bah! Come to mean when you've had to read Children of the Self Absorbed in order to retain a little mental sanity.

OMG, I read the Amazon summary and it describes my mother perfectly. No wonder I've been a neurotic mess all my life. On the plus side, at least she was too self-absorbed to follow me to college.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:10 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


One more thing. These types of parents aren't NEW, btw. I know I've seen them made fun of in movies and literature from decades WAY earlier than this one. (Come on, people! Veruca Salt? That mom who interfered in her son's social life in that one Austen novel??? Which one WAS that?)
posted by jeanmari at 9:13 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've had a few parental encounters. Most of the time, I've had propsective students or soon-to-be-first years coming with their parents seeking more specific information on a major. I don't mind that so much.

I've had one set of parents complain when their child couldn't find a classroom, which was all sorts of absurdity. And I did refuse to tell the parents the information they were calling about and cited FERPA. Under FERPA, I'm not allowed to reveal a student's course schedule without the student's permission and informed the parents their son needed to call me back. In fact, that's my response when parents call, "I'm sorry, sir or ma'am, but I can only speak to the student about this. Can you have him/her contact me?"

A few times I had a parent call because the student was living at home, the T was running late, and it was finals week. The student wanted to get a message to the faculty person that he/she was on the way, but they didn't have the department's direct line in the phone. So before heading underground or into a no-signal zone, the student whipped off a text message to the parents who were still at home, who got the right number, who then told me the student was late, and so forth. I've had friends do this, too -- some of whom were students here and some not.

But the one time I had a parent call when it was without a doubt appropriate was because a student had been in a car accident, was on a leave of absence, and was looking to come back. But he had some short term memory problems. The student wanted to take a full load of classes, but both his parents and his doctor though that was too much. The mother said that he'll forget things from day to day, that he'll do something one day, and have no recollection of having done it the next --- like going to the store, or making a phone call, or agreeing to meet with a friend, etc. So she wanted to a) make the university aware of this, b) figure out tuition refunds prior to paying for five classes if it turned out her son could only manage three and c) what course of action both at home and in the university could be implemented to help the student have as smooth transition back into school as possible.

But again, I don't think that's helicoptering. But that phone call is one of the reasons I'll give parents calling the benefit of the doubt until the conversation turns.
posted by zizzle at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can we just un-demonize the bed-making and drawer-arranging at drop-off?

I apologize if it came off that way. I'll happily remember that last bit of parenting and futzing. And I never made my bed as nicely as my mom did that last time.

I was struck that schools now create events that tell parents it's time to go instead of parents understanding that they have to cut the cord and leave.
posted by dzaz at 9:22 AM on August 23, 2010


The previous standard for an adult was that one could live in a decent house (probably buying it) while supporting a family on one income.

Bullshit, again.


Not Bullshit at all. Back when unions were strong and there was some protection for workers, you could actually get job in a factory with a high-school degree and make enough to support a family, buy a house, a car and and hunting cabin in the hills for the weekends. The US wasn't always the randian con-game it is now.
posted by octothorpe at 9:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Back when unions were strong and there was some protection for workers, you could actually get job in a factory with a high-school degree and make enough to support a family, buy a house, a car.

Octothorpe speaks the truth. Both my parents had high school diplomas--dad worked in foundries as a draftsman, mom was stay-at-home parent--we had a nice/modest house in the suburbs, two cars, didn't want for anything. This was the mid-60's through the early 80's.
posted by jeanmari at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Both my parents had high school diplomas--dad worked in foundries as a draftsman, mom was stay-at-home parent--we had a nice/modest house in the suburbs, two cars, didn't want for anything."

It's worth noting that "back then" usually is a time when the average suburban house was 800 square feet and people had cars they owned until they didn't run anymore, and generally owned one -- and just one -- of everything they had.

Which is to say that it's not just about life being less expensive back in the day; it was also about people's expectations of what a good life was being less expensive overall.
posted by jscalzi at 9:34 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


But you understand that you are talking about a short period in time, in post WWII USA, in your suburban milieu, with parents who (I'm guessing) were later than early to mid-twenties. This was not true anywhere else in the world, was not true in non-unionized industries, and was not a sustainable economic position.

Anyone who generalizes from having middle-class American parents in the mid-to-late C20th to the situation today is beginning from a fault premise. It was not like that in most of the rest of the world (including England), or in large socio-economic and geographic swathes of the US of A either.

In other words you grew up in a household with a couple of cars and one parent working, and no worries about paying the bills, you were unusually lucky on a global scale, and your assumption that the world is going to treat you the same may very well be flawed.
posted by unSane at 9:36 AM on August 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's worth noting that "back then" usually is a time when the average suburban house was 800 square feet and people had cars they owned until they didn't run anymore, and generally owned one -- and just one -- of everything they had.

Really? One sock? One spoon?

Do you actually know any un- and underemployed young people? I have never met one who was unhappy about only being able to afford an 800-square-foot house. I don't think this is as big a factor as you think it is. Elizabeth Warren has talked about her extensive research directly addressing how household spending patterns have changed in the past few decades based on real spending data, not speculation and stereotypes about iPhones and McMansions.
posted by enn at 9:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Obviously an interesting topic today! It will be for me on Wednesday, when I help my only child move into her dorm 1200 miles from here. I certainly won't be doing any helicoptering! During high school I didn't even check the "missing assignments" announcements the school sent me. She took care of it. I feel lucky to have such an independent daughter.

Of course, the existence of cellphones and email is bound to change the nature of our communication. In the Seventies, I stayed in touch with my parents with first class mail or a handful of quarters.
posted by kozad at 9:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think some parents are worried their kids will get nothing done without parental involvement, which may be true for a while, but doesn't bode well for those times the kid / young adult needs to actually be accountable. My parents were pretty good about being hands-off, and eventually I got things done, but I took my sweet time. One summer, my dad tried to get me an internship after I hadn't put much real effort into it, and I ended up volunteering at a botanical garden doing manual labor. Not really the internship I was supposed to have, and not something I've ever put on my resume, but I was out of the house for a few hours each day.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2010


NY Times trend pieces are the knock knock jokes of journalism.

One of my first eye-opening experiences of college was when my ethnic conflicts professor told us not to bother reading the NYT since it was pretty much just a "tabloid". He recommended the Washington Post and the Economist.

But it seems to me that the phenomenon of helicopter parents has more to do with parents being unable to grow and mature, as opposed to their children.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2010


Can we just un-demonize the bed-making and drawer-arranging at drop-off? It is extremely hard to say goodbye to your kids, kids. You are acutely aware that this is It. As a non-helicopter parent but one who is close to both my children (24 and 20), I knew it was time to go gracefully and let them Live Their Lives. I'll be damned if I wasn't gonna make their beds and straighten their drawers one final time.

Completely understandable. I always find these discussions on parenting hilarious. The culture is so judgmental that you have the parents who left their kids' dorms at 3:15 falling all over themselves to be separate from the ones who left at 5:45, who don't want to be associated with the ones who left late the next morning. Meaningful choices for the people who make them, but get some perspective. From a very small distance in time or space so many of us lead virtually indistinguishable lives.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


My working-class grandmother lived at home until she got married at 24, at which point she moved in with her in-laws. Later, she and my grandfather moved into a house on the same block as my maternal grandparents, and my great-grandmother had a huge hand in raising my mom. As other people have pointed out, the entire idea that adults immediately move out and achieve financial independence at age 18 is totally new and pretty class-based. My grandparents didn't have enough money to be an isolated nuclear family: they relied on relatives for things like housing and child-care. And that was pretty typical of people in their time, place and social class.
posted by craichead at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


One of my first eye-opening experiences of college was when my ethnic conflicts professor told us not to bother reading the NYT since it was pretty much just a "tabloid". He recommended the Washington Post and the Economist.

Seriously...? That's like telling someone they should stop eating so much beef and suggesting bacon and bologna as the alternative.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:48 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who generalizes from having middle-class American parents in the mid-to-late C20th to the situation today is beginning from a fault premise. It was not like that in most of the rest of the world (including England), or in large socio-economic and geographic swathes of the US of A either.

I think this is a very important point. It's very easy to say "oh back when unions were strong", but the reality is that it was a lot more complicated than that. The US was the only major western country whose economy in general was not utterly shattered by WWII -- it was therefore in an incredibly strong position from which those engaged in the manufacturing industries (export driven to the rest of the world) necessarily benefited. That time is never coming back (we should all hope, given the cause), and if you could snap you fingers and make America have a 90% union rate, those facts wouldn't change.

No doubt kids graduating this year have a hard time because of the economy, and they certainly have my sympathy. But it is also true that there is a not insignificant element among them that expected to graduate university instantly into a lifestyle much like the one they were accustomed to living with their parents. That's not realistic in almost any economy (the unrepeatable manufactuing situation of the US post-WWII being the exception). It's a rude awakening for many of them.
posted by modernnomad at 9:52 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


When my oldest boy started college four years ago, the college did some of the things described here to make for a clean break. We heard a lot about how important it was for the students to be on their own, and on the schedule for freshman weekend there was a specific time at which parents were supposed to leave campus. But there was also some pressure put on the students to sign the FERPA paperwork that gave the college permission to speak to the parents about issues. I didn't occur to me until now that there was some inconsistency in those two actions. I wonder if the college was creating more problems than they were solving.
posted by maurice at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember my first day at college. My dad wasn't there since he had to work. Also, my mom missed an exit and we wound up driving all my worldly possessions down Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. After helping me unpack, mom asked if I was going to make the bed. I said "Later," so she went and made it. I considered that to be a bit much. These parents are fucking nuts.
posted by jonmc at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's worth noting that "back then" usually is a time when the average suburban house was 800 square feet and people had cars they owned until they didn't run anymore, and generally owned one -- and just one -- of everything they had.

Dad was 24. And Mom was 21. My parents met working for a manufacturing company where she was a secretary, he was a draftsman. Had three kids in four years. They lived with my mother's parents when I was first born, but had their first house within two years. It was a 4 bedroom bungalow with one bathroom, a semi-finished basement, a yard, and a garage in White Meadow Lake, New Jersey. We weren't outrageously rich, but we had a lot. A television, records/record player, two cars, bikes, toys, clothes, medical care, the occasional vacation trip to Florida to visit with extended family. We didn't have just one of everything. His job wasn't a union job, but I don't find it difficult to believe that the pay at union jobs also positively affected his jobs in industries which were unionized.

No way would two high school graduates be able to afford all of that, with three small children, on one salary now. It was a unique time and, unfortunately, I think that some baby boomers don't realize how good they had it and that quite a bit of their success was "right place, right time."
posted by jeanmari at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2010 [27 favorites]


Along with the helicopter parent, one shouldn't forget the Passive-Agressive Helicopter Child. That is, the kid who can't directly oppose or distance him/herself from the parent, and so instead quietly sabotages things and hopes that other people and institutions (e.g., university admin, HR interviewers, etc) will do the work of saying "no" to the parent. You can see that in some of the anecdotes in this thread, where a parent charges in with A Plan For My Child, and the child slouches and remains silent and generally does everything possible to emit "I don't want this" vibes.

I few years ago, I had a student who seemed bright enough but simply blew all of his deadlines for a work-heavy, complex, and "core" requisite course. He would literally disappear from communication whenever I was trying to follow up with him, and his performance on his mid-term exam was stunningly awful. I eventually followed university procedure and informed him and his college advisor that he was at risk of failing the course; the college advisor organized a meeting between the student, his parents, and the dean of students of the college, which apparently was a helicopter parent-y debacle. I was asked to do all sorts of things to help him pass, such as offer make-up assignments, extend deadlines, grade "generously" and provide tutoring outside of regular office hours. Throughout the whole thing, the student himself was avoidant but completely unstressed, as if this was exactly what he wanted. By the end of the term, he had failed the class, he was being kicked out of the college (because it was not his first failure and my institution has some hard-cast rules about failing core courses), his parent's dream of him becoming an MBA and taking over daddy's business were dashed, and the only person who wasn't freaking out was the student himself.

I suppose that this is one coping strategy for getting what you want when you have dominating parents, but it created SO MUCH WORK and stress for those of us who became the default buffer between him and his "helicopter parents." So, I see the emergence of these Separation Protocols at American Universities and I think two things: 1) well, maybe that'll make things easier further down the line for profs and grad students; and 2) DO WE EVEN HAVE TO CUT THE !@#$ING APRON STRINGS FOR YOU? It's enough to drive me Randian.
posted by LMGM at 10:13 AM on August 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


While it is certainly true that the post WWII economy in the US was the exception rather than the rule, that's actually the point that those of us who are frustrated with the tone of these articles are trying to make. You can't say on one hand that 20-somethings are lazy these days, and then turn around and say it's because they haven't achieved what their parents and grandparents did in vastly different economies. These article's aren't written by a vast crowd of young people who are wondering why it isn't easier, they are written by boomers wondering why young people can't do what they did.
posted by Nothing at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


I'll never forget when I went to college in 1987, as I was amazed my parents even bothered to get out of the car!

My mom and dad helped me carry my stuff to the dorm room... Mom hugged me and got that "I wanna cry but I'm not going to" look on her face and Dad shook my hand. I walked them to the door of the building, Dad made a joke about something - so we all had a quick laugh and said our goodbyes.

And then, in a moment that's forever seared in my memories, my Southern-Baptist mamma turned back as they were walking towards the car and yelled across the crowded lawn... "HEY MATTY, DON'T FUCK IT UP!".
posted by matty at 10:18 AM on August 23, 2010 [37 favorites]


Yeah, Nothing, I was agreeing with your point. I think the "why aren't kids today grown-ups?!?" articles are usually written by people who don't have a lot of perspective on how limited and historically-contingent their definition of being a grown-up is.
posted by craichead at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously...? That's like telling someone they should stop eating so much beef and suggesting bacon and bologna as the alternative.

My experience has pretty much been that the Economist is pretty much the go-to source for good international news coverage (even if it is obnoxiously neoliberal). I've also felt that the WaPo's national coverage is pretty decent. Of course, my professor said this around 15 years ago, so the relative quality of the papers may have changed during this time.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:20 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it seems to me that the phenomenon of helicopter parents has more to do with parents being unable to grow and mature, as opposed to their children.

The phenomenon of helicopter parents (if it really is one, which I doubt) has more to do with culture commodification and the growing expense of education.

College in 1950 was like $25 a year. College today is like $30,000.

If I were dropping $100,000 a year on college, I might feel the need to helicopter.

I flew to college alone with everything in a couple suitcases. I definitely preferred NOT to have my parents along, fwiw. As a parent, I realize that the biggest and hardest job is teaching your kid to be self-sufficient. I hope by the time my daughter is 18, she's capable enough to live competently on her own. (It's not an easy job, I don't think.)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I stayed in touch with my parents with first class mail or a handful of quarters.

"Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about you becoming a lawyer."
posted by ericb at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Turtles all the way down: As we walk in, his mother is in the middle of reminding him that she put two washcloths in his shower basket, one to use on his “posterior” and one to use on the rest of his body, as to avoid “what happened at Easter.”

That could have been written by David Sedaris. And is correspondingly hilarious.


Yes, like many a David Sedaris piece, this makes me want to die of embarrassment and it happened to somebody else.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My father was utterly delighted to cut me loose at age 18. He also refused to pay to send me to music school, which is what I wanted to do. So, I just moved out and got a job. He pretty much left me to my own devices after that, and when he died, he didn't leave me one fuckin red cent. So, um, what do you call that kind of parent? Certainly not a helicopter. I guess he was, let's see... a... I dunno, I can't think of an appropriate vehicle, aerial or otherwise.
Mole screw. I had these, but their mole screw was wearing a helicopter costume, it was really confusing
If your parents smoked pot and moshed to punk rock, rebellion is going to be a lot less sharply defined.

Where do you think Young Republicans come from?
Mine were Grateful Dead fans. My little brother reads Michael Savage and Ann Coulter :(
posted by jtron at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a teacher: These articles always seem to make things so streamlined and monolithic, and they're not. Sure, the helicopter parents seem worse than they used to, but they're not the majority. And the picture is usually more complicated even for the parents who seem to hover. Will I have some really peculiar parent interactions this year? Sure. Will most of them leave me alone and support what I do? Yup.

As a parent: We drove our kid (only child) to college in 2000, and I stuck my head out the passenger window and cried for a chunk of the way home.* I'm still paying off her student loans, and we're helping her out financially while she's in a doctoral program. We bought her a beat-up house in the city because we figured out the payments would end up being the same as what we were sending her, plus we could sell the house when we were done. We still spend a lot of time together, and talk often. BUT she worked all the way through college, ate ramen, carried her stuff to college in a handful of trash bags, and is one of the most independent people I know. Yeah, the job market sucks. She has taught summer school, done dog-sitting, worked in a drug store and a video store. Her latest job is being a "professional patient" for medical residency exams.

As a "boomer": What is it with people that they think they can lump an entire generation into one box? Who are these people you're talking about? Your mom? Your grandpop? That guy across the way? Someone in a TV show you saw?

*but I didn't do what her roommates' parents did. And when she told me to leave, I left.
posted by Peach at 10:31 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Huh. When I went off to college in 1987, my parents took me to the airport. Back then you could still probably accompany passengers to the gate without a ticket, but that's as far as they went. I flew across the country, navigated the Peter Pan bus from Bradley to campus, found my house, met my roommate, and that was that. I schlepped all my luggage all by myself.

But I was the third kid, and my parents had concluded that not having them around would help me meet people and make friends faster. They were probably right. Then again, I don't think my mom had made my bed for me since I was seven years old.
posted by ambrosia at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many baby boomers do realize how good we had it. One salary in my family sent six kids through college. Two salaries in 2010 are not enough to send one child through a private college without scholarships and debt (public universities in our state do not offer our child what she needs).
posted by kozad at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


College in 1950 was like $25 a year. College today is like $30,000.

This is another point the article glosses over. If I were the paranoid type, I'd go so far as to say colleges exploit this distorted payment structure. From this perspective, the measures in the article seem to make clear the contract: we know you're paying for this, but please realize you don't have any say in the outcome. What better way to throw up the wall, by making abundantly clear that anything you do will be interpreted as an overprotective parent.

If I'm paying $30,000 a year for something and my kid comes back and says that they couldn't get into some program despite having the qualifications, I'd be calling to find out why they couldn't stick one more person in there.

For a lot of families, college is a large expense and what you're seeing is just the manifestation of this. Grinnell, mentioned in the article, is fucking $45,012 a year with room and board.

When you're selling people the equivalent of a 4-year Ferrari, they begin treating it like one, and a Ferrari owner isn't going to just ignore the rattle in the glove box, he's going to take it to the dealer until it gets fixed.
posted by geoff. at 10:37 AM on August 23, 2010 [20 favorites]


But it is also true that there is a not insignificant element among them that expected to graduate university instantly into a lifestyle much like the one they were accustomed to living with their parents. That's not realistic in almost any economy (the unrepeatable manufactuing situation of the US post-WWII being the exception). It's a rude awakening for many of them.

This is false. I feel like this is coming from someone who doesn't know any twenty-somethings or has only experienced the small swath of their generation for which this is true. Few college students graduate and expect they will live a lifestyle remotely similar to their parents' — although they certainly hope that someday they'll achieve or beat that level of comfort. Most are happy to have a job that will let them pay the rent in a small, shared apartment. They hope they can achieve more in the future, but hoping isn't a sin.
posted by good day merlock at 10:46 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


To build on the FERPA stuff and the actual article, we built into our orientation activities a way to get parents away from kids. I work in an athletic department and we need to do an hour long orientation where we go over 25 pages of rules, forms, and signatures with student-athletes. At the same time, parents will be having their own orientation.

The key is to make these worthwhile activities for the parents. If the choice is "Help my baby" vs. "Mingle with other parents," you're bound to get parents who will choose the former. If the choice is "Help my baby" vs. "Learn information I will only be getting once," that should keep them in the latter. So our orientation is "things you need to know as the parent of a student-athlete," information and an opportunity for questions that will not be given later.

And if a parent still decides to try and sit in on our meeting, I plan to use FERPA. In total there's about 50 pages of forms and education student-athletes go over every year, half at home in the summer and half in an orientation meeting in the fall. You can just look at the handwriting and see who had their parents complete which forms. But even though the parent did it, as soon as they send in those forms, they legally can't see them again.
posted by Taco John at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know that when my father went to a private college from 1961-1965 his National Merit Scholarship covered his tuition.

My parents spent some time helping me move things into my dorm when I started college in 1992, but they left that afternoon and only visited me occasionally to take me and a couple of friends out to lunch or dinner. They never made phone calls or talked to faculty for me, although when I had some trouble with the dorm I was living in during my sophomore year - too much partying by my next door neighbor (seven days a week until 3-4am including during exam time) - they sure wanted to.

I recently started volunteering and I can see that other people are experiencing people who expect to not do any work - the first thing the guys I talked to about coming in to volunteer tried to very gently say that it was work and that I shouldn't expect to swan about all day. As someone who worked with undergraduates and graduate students over the last ten years, I've tried to have that conversation with a few of them.

I feel like there's this myth of the great fulfilling job of your dreams. As far as I can tell all jobs have unpleasant things that you have to do - paperwork, repetitive tasks, dealing with difficult people - you just have to decide to do them and figure out if they are balanced by the rest of the job or just realize that you're working for a paycheck and deal with that.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:56 AM on August 23, 2010


As a Grinnell grad from some 20+ years ago, we would have laughed our asses off if the college had tried a namby-pamby "separation" ceremony back then. Mom & Dad dumped me off and headed back home after no more than a couple of hours. 20 minutes later, our RA had us incoming freshmen sitting on the front steps of the dorm and we were cracking open our first college beers. Ice cold and cheap-ass Schaefers, IIRC.

C'mon! Toughen up. Life is hard. Get used to it.
posted by webhund at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2010


Every year, around the start of university season, my Mum likes to recall the day we went in to the university together. Now, before y'alls have a little aneurysm, allow me a moment to detail my woes. Due to some argument with the bank, I was out the services of cheques, and couldn't draw out my tuition all at once- and thus, kindly, she said she'd take care of it, but wanted the monies returned tout sweet.

Regardless! On entering the doors, she paused, and asked if I wouldn't be embarrassed about 'bringing my mummy' in. We're a sarcastic bunch, so I sez 'Of course not! Everyone brings their mummy on the first day.'

I had seen the lines at the bursar's office previously, and noted this myself. She still laughs herself breathless, as she did then.

I hadn't heard of the helicopter variety of parenting, until long after, and just assumed that they were there for settling the finances. The scene is a little more sinister- I must say.
posted by LD Feral at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2010


I just moved across the country to take a college teaching job. I hope very much that I don't have helicopter parents to deal with. Back when I was a grad student, and a TA, I didn't see much of this. But it's possible that the parents went directly to the professor. I also tutored occasionally to make some extra money, and often I'd get e-mails from parents asking about tutoring for their children. I almost never answered these e-mails, because usually the student doesn't want to be there, and that's very unpleasant. But a friend of mine was once a tutor for a student who never showed up for tutoring sessions - but the parents still sent my friend money, every week, the whole semester. (Come to think of it, I should probably familiarize myself with FERPA, because it will be my friend.)

But I'm also in my late twenties, and my mom helped me move -- she flew out here with me, we spent a couple days buying things (with my money) and setting them up in My New Place, she went home. I don't regret this -- although I had second thoughts about it -- but if she wanted to, why not? Besides, moving is scary especially when you have to buy a bunch of things right away. I've been here two weeks and I bet there are a lot of things I wouldn't have bought yet if she hadn't been here. Incidentally, she made an appearance at my new job -- but only because I had my Boxes Of Stuff shipped to school since I didn't know if anybody would be home to accept them, and she was helping me pick them up. Could I have done this alone? Sure. But there probably would have been some crying on the floor of my bedroom. On the floor, because I wouldn't have bothered to buy a mattress.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2010


Then again, I don't think my mom had made my bed for me since I was seven years old.

Yeah, I'm getting the sense that there are some very different expectations here long before college enters the picture.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:04 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mom & Dad dumped me off and headed back home after no more than a couple of hours...

C'mon! Toughen up. Life is hard. Get used to it.


8 years ago, my mom hugged me goodbye. At the airport. 1000 miles away from college.

Toughen up yourself.
posted by muddgirl at 11:04 AM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


escabeche said: I went to an elite college and so did my parents and I know how to comport myself "properly" and so when I take steps, somewhere down the road, to give my kids a boost in life, the Times isn't going to attach a derisive epithet to my parenting.

Of course the Times will attach a derisive epithet to your parenting! That's what they do. (Or if the Times fails between now and when your kids are college students, someone else will fill that particular cultural niche.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mom & Dad dumped me off and headed back home after no more than a couple of hours...

C'mon! Toughen up. Life is hard. Get used to it.

8 years ago, my mom hugged me goodbye. At the airport. 1000 miles away from college.

Toughen up yourself.


My girl's parents hugged her goodbye. At the airport. 9262 miles away from college.

Continue the toughening!

:D
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:18 AM on August 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oompa Loompa, doom-pa-dee doo
I've got another deadline to do
Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee dee
The New York Times must listen to me

How can you write about a kid in a frat
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat?
Style writers all love to make up a new name
So you know just who you can blame:
The hel-i-cop-ter paaar-ents!
posted by benzenedream at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


The day I went off to college, my parents woke me up at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, and fed me a lump of cold poison. Then I went to work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and payed the mill owner for permission to come to work, and when I got home, my Dad would kill me, and dance about on my grave singing "Hallelujah."
posted by kyrademon at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [34 favorites]


Luxury!
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:25 AM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


I myself arrived on campus at the far end of an intercontinental flight with nothing in tow except what I could carry in two bags. Didn't see my parents again until the end of another intercontinental flight at Xmas. Worked the summer after first year as a taxi driver and produce-warehouse labourer on the night shift. Changed faculties the next year without much more than a cursory long-distance phone call. Turned out okay by most measures.

What do I win?

On preview: looks like all I'll get is a dance or two on kyrademon's grave. Dang. Thought for sure there'd be a tropical vacation or something . . .
posted by gompa at 11:27 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Note: I do not believe, personally, that I am any tougher than anyone else because my parents' didn't accompany me to college. I think it's patently ridiculous to make any sort of value judgments about a parenting style based on one frankly momentous day. For all we know, those parents who stuck around were just trying to score some dope.)
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hah! Man, I'm sure people like this exist--God knows the NYT lives for finding weirdos and then presenting them as the prevailing norm in overstuffed magazine articles--but it makes me laugh to remember when I got shipped off to college. My parents practically packed for me. My father half-joked, "Remember, son . . . you can never live here again." My mom packed me a skillet. "You never know!" She also packed me a staggering number of condoms in the misbelief that I was going to have near-constant sex. "I don't want to be a grandmother!"

They drove me to my dorm and briefly checked in on my room. "Well, it's not on fire, so that's good!" they all but said before leaping into the car and speeding away to their newfound non-kid-populated life.

They were great. The quietest phone call of my life was probably when I informed them that I was switching from pre-law to an acting degree, but there was no cavil. Later, my father would tell me, "That was when I knew I'd never get a Corvette for my birthday."
posted by Skot at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am friends with my parents. They stopped being "parents" long ago, and became people I treasure and enjoy sharing my life with. That doesn't mean they're parents who can't let go.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


The day I went off to college, my parents woke me up at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, and fed me a lump of cold poison. Then I went to work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and payed the mill owner for permission to come to work, and when I got home, my Dad would kill me, and dance about on my grave singing "Hallelujah."


But you try and tell that to kids these days, and they won't believe you.
posted by spirit72 at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


The frank cruelty of some of the comments here (Unsane's original "cry me a river and fuck off" in particular, of course) makes me think of my 23 year old girlfriend who just graduated from college.

She put herself through with zero help from her parents, the first in her family to attend college, was actually thrown out of her home junior year for no longer being a Jehovah's Witness, graduated with a double major and a minor ... all in all, she's a fucking bad-ass.

Her bad-assery faded though when she was dumped from her office job without explanation about 6 months before graduation, though. And of course, since she was attending college full time, no unemployment for her.

Sure, she sort of managed to kinda/sorta/almost make ends meet through a string of shitty, illegally exploitative part time jobs (WHOOPS! Looks like we forgot to pay you for 2 months! Over Christmas! And didn't answer our phones! Oh well. I guess if you want to keep working for us you'll need to endure the ritual humiliation and debasement of us lecturing you on how unprofessional it was to get upset about that.), but mostly it was my assistance that kept the lights on and the water flowing.

And I'll tell you, I went into debt and it wrecked my credit. She went into debt and it wrecked her credit. She had to blow off her student loan payments for months on end. Neither of us are pot-and-PBR types. We're hard workers. we just got unlucky enough to live in the Bay Area in the late 2000's. Of course, the crowning blow was a late-night trip to the emergency room after she passed out randomly one afternoon. No insurance + ER trip = $10,000 neither of us have.

And look ... we're going to be okay. She has a mostly decent job now. We've had a lot of help from my parents. Student loans are a godsend for me. She's very talented, and we're both smarter than most people. She's paying off her student loans and her ER bill, and luckily her passing out wasn't life-threatening or the sort of thing that requires long-term care. We're putting it all back together. We were very lucky.

BUT, that's the point.

WE WERE VERY LUCKY.

But there are a lot of people who don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend who can help carry the load.

There are a lot of people who don't have parents who are willing or able to help.

There are a lot of people who aren't smarter or prettier or more talented than the people around them.

There are a lot of people who to to the ER and discover that they've got a condition that requires daily treatment that they'll never be able to afford.

We're hard fucking workers, but if you think that's enough anymore, you're delusional.

We got lucky.
posted by Myca at 11:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [34 favorites]


They were great. The quietest phone call of my life was probably when I informed them that I was switching from pre-law to an acting degree, but there was no cavil. Later, my father would tell me, "That was when I knew I'd never get a Corvette for my birthday."

I know that quiet intimately.

"I'm transferring out of Commerce."

". . ."

"I just . . . I find my history courses way more interesting. And I want to be a writer anyway."

". . . !"

"I can maybe go to journalism school after undergrad. I want to love what I do, not just make money at it."

"Well." Slightly robotically, as if reading from cue cards: "You need to do what feels right for you."

I was nearly 30 before my parents believed I was actually gainfully employed as a freelance writer. But the lack of even token skepticism or resistance in that freighted moment was one of their most courageous and selfless acts as parents, and I'll be eternally grateful to them for it.
posted by gompa at 11:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


>>>If your parents smoked pot and moshed to punk rock, rebellion is going to be a lot less sharply defined.

>>Where do you think Young Republicans come from?

>Mine were Grateful Dead fans. My little brother reads Michael Savage and Ann Coulter :(


It's called Alex P. Keaton syndrome. There's probably a NYT trends piece about it.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:52 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Slate Culture Gabfest podcast people just posted this rather Maury-esque request on their Facebook:

"HELP! In your 20's? Done with school and still living with your parents? We need your help with a segment for the show this week. Write to slatejb@gmail.com and tell us your story. Why you decide to stay with your folks and why it works for you. We would like to share some of your emails on tomorrow's podcast. (JB)"
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2010


What is it about baby-boomers? They're all like "What's up with this future generation whos future we ruined with our greed and foolishness?"

Wouldn't it be the children of boomers, not the boomers themselves?
I mean, the youngest Baby Boomer would be around 46, so they should have dropped their kids off at college 5 years ago.

I wonder if the age of the parent has more of a bearing on their likeliness to be a "helicopter" rather than their social class. The perceived "it's a upper-middle class phenomenon" being a side effect not the cause.

I know from my experience as a older new father that I am _much_ more assertive than the younger parents in my kid's group. I suppose it 18 years I'll be video calling my kid's professors from my flying car.
posted by madajb at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2010


It's called Alex P. Keaton syndrome. There's probably a NYT trends piece about it.

Ahh, I'll wait for the article about "Hawk & Dove Syndrome," detailing the epidemic of sibling pairs who are opposite politically despite same-house upbringing.
posted by jtron at 12:06 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


[two comments removed. The "fuck off" stops here.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:07 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Huh. My dad was the total opposite of a helicopter parent. (Workaholic, actually.) He did take some time off to tour college campuses with me. I had an interview set up with the University of Missouri Honors dept, because I was a borderline case. I was a shy kiddo, but even I knew that it was fucked up that the interviewer kept directing every single question at my dad. It pretty much soured me on Mizzou and honors departments in general and I took my tuition elsewhere. Though, to be sure, I probably would have been a lot more successful as a student if I had applied to the honors college at the place that I landed. The only help I got moving in was when the shuttle driver helped me lift my 70 pound duffel bag.

I often act as an interviewer in my own career now and, no matter how mismatched the candidate, I still treat the interview as a two way street and save judgment for afterwards. The interview committees I sit on nowadays won't likely involve youngsters, but if anybody ever had a third-party in the room, I'd ask them if it was for reasonable accommodations for disability and if the answer was no, I'd kick that other person out of the room.
posted by Skwirl at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


As awful as we boomers may be, I think we are getting a bit long in the tooth to be tarred with these various brushes...boomers are mostly grandparents at this point, and more than likely edit NYT lifestyle pieces rather than write them.
posted by bonefish at 12:14 PM on August 23, 2010


I mean, the youngest Baby Boomer would be around 46, so they should have dropped their kids off at college 5 years ago.

Erm, yeah, no. The youngest boomers are 46, so their kids are still toddlers. That is the way of the boomer.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


(There is probably a NYT trends piece about that, too.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh, I'll wait for the article about "Hawk & Dove Syndrome," detailing the epidemic of sibling pairs who are opposite politically despite same-house upbringing.

Something something Wonder Twins Syndrome.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Erm, yeah, no. The youngest boomers are 46, so their kids are still toddlers.

Ok, tangent, BUT... even for the trend of having kids later, a 46 year old parent is likely to have a kindergartner rather than a preschooler. FWIW, I work in childcare and the oldest mom (at the time of pregnancy) I've met is 41. They may be waiting later, but very very few people are holding off that late.
posted by sonika at 12:26 PM on August 23, 2010


Wow - boomers keep getting younger and younger. I was a young one, and I'm 59. What happened?
posted by Peach at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2010


A graph that might help explain some of the trends we are seeing:
Tuition fees paid by students as a share of universities’ income (%)
(Data from the UK/University of London)
posted by Lanark at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2010


Erm, yeah, no. The youngest boomers are 46, so their kids are still toddlers.

The average US age for first child birth is 25.0

posted by octothorpe at 12:36 PM on August 23, 2010


"Boomer Age Creep: The Entitled Generation Getting Younger Every Year", a NYT lifestyle piece to come!
posted by bonefish at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My father (age 80) saw the NYT piece. He shot me this remembrance of his college arrival. Dad was the first (and only) one in his immediate and extended family to go to university.

"I forgot to tell you what happened to me at college - those were the days - Fall of 1949 - ages ago. Mother and Aunt Edith drove me to Champaign [llinois]. Originally I was to go to Jacksonville because there were so many returning vets there was no room at U of I[llinois]. About a week before departing I got a letter saying everyone was after all to go to Champaign. So we did. My room was a dorm of 150 guys and we had a bed (bunks, actually), foot locker, and a tall steel cabinet for our clothes; a common wash/bathroom and a study hall with tables and chairs for about half of us. So we lived for two semesters. No one succumbed! We arrived at college and went to registration and they told us where to go and what to do and we went and did it. No question asked and everything functioned. Amazing. We had fun and enjoyed our life together in spite of everything. I sent my laundry home in a metal box, mother washed and ironed it and sent it back. I still have the box! It was an efficient system."
posted by webhund at 12:42 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


boomers are mostly grandparents at this point
Uh, not so much, there. I'm pals with a boatload of 'em, and I even AM one! From your keyboard to ... well, to the Wish-granting Czar's ears.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:52 PM on August 23, 2010


Anyone who doesn't believe this is a real and very annoying problem needs to talk to some front-desk college administrators, like my wife. She had to constantly field pushy calls or visits from parents who demanded to see how their little darlings were doing. Fortunately she could simply tell them it was against the law to release any information. And then during department tours she would have to deal with the moms dragging sullen kids in, determined to get their brats into CS because they had heard of video game designers making fortunes and ignoreing the fact that our CS department was the sort of intense program that produces computer science nobels, not video games. Oddly enough, even the ones that got into the program would nearly always fail out in a year with a string of Fs and Ds the mother would try to get reversed.
posted by happyroach at 12:57 PM on August 23, 2010


Usually I pawn them off on the public defender, who has paralegals and interns to run interference between her and people she doesn't have time to talk to.

As a PD, is it socially appropriate for me to challenge you to a duel?

Also, I don't have anyone to run interference for me with these types, I just ignore them, and fufill their expectations that I am worthless; usually the conversations go like this:

Me: Sorry, I didn't return your 800 phone calls, I have literally been in court every day for the last month
Them: I should have gotten him a real attorney*, public defenders are just working with the prosecutors, "it's all about the money, follow the money"(that last part is in quotes because it was an actual quote, said today, about me, after I seemed cordial with a prosecutor who was about to dismiss my guy's case)

*This is the part where I want to beat them to death with my enormous framed law degree
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


The first genuine bonding moment I had with my roommates was when after the last parent left, one girl shut the door and said, "Finally. Who's got weed?"
[73 favorites +]


You know when our big bonding moment as parents came, dzaz:)

When the next time we came to college - after dropping off our lovely, lively, gentle but sometimes immature youngest son for his freshman year - it was to pay for his lawyer.

The f****** college invited in the cops after the dorm aides searched his suite (noisy first semester party) and our son copped to ownership (to the aides) of the weed found in his room.

He was arrested on campus (but he said nothing to the police), was marched to the station by SIX officers, where he spent a terrible night, pleaded not guilty at the arraignment the next morning (thankyouthankyou - oh! flyingspaghettimonster - for his wisdom in this) and the charge (of misdemeanor possession) was later dismissed by the court.

He is no longer with that fucking college.
Our (recommended) lawyer cost $5,000. (Worth every penny).
It has been a long hard year getting his life back on track.

So just so you know, determinedly hands-off parents can fail their kids too.
We should have drummed more sense into him about avoiding this sort of disaster.
(My son, by the way, does not have my surname).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2010


I assure you, Legomancer has no idea what you're all talking about.

(signed) Legomancer's mom
posted by Legomancer at 1:19 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno, sounds like aside from the financial hit things went well. Your son showed integrity in a tense situation, (possibly) took the heat for someone else, didn't rat anyone out, found out his college sucked, and went through an experience - while painful and terrifying and uncomfortable - that'll maybe give him some valuable insights into the State and personal freedoms and institutional morality and etc.
posted by jtron at 1:19 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


found out his college sucked early in the game, before he got too invested, rather
posted by jtron at 1:20 PM on August 23, 2010


"it's all about the money, follow the money."

How you refrained from entering the system yourself as a(n alleged) murderer after being told that public defense is "all about the money" I do not know, but your restraint is saintly.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2010


For those who go away to boarding schoolthey -- and their parents -- realize that the umbilical cord had been caught years before entering college.
posted by ericb at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2010


*been cut*
posted by ericb at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2010


Lots of good stories here. My own folks (my aunt and uncle, since my parents were dead by the time I went to college) weren't helicopterish at all; they took me to school in the fall of '82 with nearly everything I owned crammed into a VW Rabbit with a roof carrier (I stored the bulk of my comics collection with a friend, since I knew that it would have ended up in a yard sale otherwise), and, although they did help out with some small emergency cash infusions in the last two years of college after the small inheritance I got from my parents ran out, I think that the next and last visit that they made to campus was my graduation.

And I had some hard lessons to learn about life and responsibility and whatnot, and I had to learn them the hard way, and I'm sure that if they had been willing to hold my hand I would have been willing to take it. But I got through it, and graduated, and the next few years after graduation were also hard, but I got through those too. In response to flapjax at midnite's comment, I suppose you could call them "artillery parents":send your kid on a one-way ballistic trajectory and hope that they land where you're aiming them at.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2010


I dunno, sounds like aside from the financial hit things went well. Your son showed integrity in a tense situation, (possibly) took the heat for someone else, didn't rat anyone out, found out his college sucked, and went through an experience - while painful and terrifying and uncomfortable - that'll maybe give him some valuable insights into the State and personal freedoms and institutional morality and etc.

jtron,
Trust me - we know that now.

(It was just really shit at the time, as my tone probably made clear!
And you do have plenty of time to mourn the giddy innocence of our farewells when we first dropped him off at college...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2010


the umbilical cord had been caught

Does that work kinda like a wedding bouquet?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:32 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm with geoff. here, on third thought. Tuition is bizarre, and most parents are entirely responsible for it. If you're going to pay that much, you want to make sure it's worth it--and always remembering that parents are figuring out what they're supposed to do as they go along, it's hardly surprising they figure they'd better get in there and make a difference somehow. I wonder if this "helicopter" phenomenon is as much a product of tight times, high expectations, and high tuitions as it is of some theoretical psyche of a generation.*

I'm still somewhat mystified that someone born in '64 could be considered a boomer. Obviously I have not been paying attention.

*According to Wikipedia, boomers invented the idea of generations. I'm mystified by that, too.**

**And keep in mind that the theoretical reader of the NYT is pretty freaking affluent, at least from what I read in the Style section.
posted by Peach at 1:33 PM on August 23, 2010


enn:

"Do you actually know any un- and underemployed young people?"

Heh. Asking a professional writer if he knows any un- and underemployed young people is funny. However, bringing up un- and underemployed young people into the discussion is slightly not on topic, as jeanmari's observation was about a young family with (apparently) a stable single income.

jeanmari:

"No way would two high school graduates be able to afford all of that, with three small children, on one salary now."

Well, they could, depending on where they lived and how they spent their money. In the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, where I live, it's possible to buy a decent (NOT awesome) house for $50,000 and one that needs sweat equity for $30k; A 30-year fixed APR mortgage payment on a $50k loan is $210 - $300 right now, thanks to historically low rates. Likewise it's possible to manage other costs through budgeting and frugality so that one could live, if not like a king, at least tolerably well on $32,000, which is the median personal income for a male college graduate in the United States.

I'd note that I'm not making these points entirely without experience; when I was 22, I was supporting a family of five (my sister and her children, who moved in with me after her divorce) on a single income $22,000 for a year, which when adjusted for inflation is pretty much spot on for the median income for a male high school graduate today. And while some things were undoubtedly less expensive then, some things are less expensive now -- I don't have stupid $400 long distance bills anymore, as an example. Likewise, the electronic world in many ways brings down the cost of amusing one's self to historically cheap levels -- even if one chooses to do so legally.

But -- and this was the point of the comment I made -- living in such a manner, not too far off at all from how you describe your parents living -- wouldn't today be considered a good, decent, "middle class" existence; it'd be seen as struggling working class. The point of all this is not to argue to argue but to note that what's seen as a median standard of living has changed over time, and it can be rather reasonably well argued that the current "middle class" standard of living has been overinflated particularly in the last 15 or so years by things like the availability of easy credit, which have allowed people to consume more than their incomes would allow on their own.

One of the silver linings in the current economic blowout is that it is helping (i.e., forcing) people to look at what they really need for their own comfort and happiness. It does seem at least some people are deciding they don't need as much as they used to. This is not necessarily a step backward.
posted by jscalzi at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Reading this thread makes me grateful I went to a commuter school and didn't have to deal with all this bullshit. Hell, my mother was, to a certain degree, opposed to my going to college in the first place.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2010


ericb: ""Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about you becoming a lawyer ."
"

God, I love this movie. It's such a God awful, cliched movie, but shit, I love it so much.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2010


Question: why do so many people belittle the NY Times, nark

parents: they differ
their kids: they differ too
SEE THEN HOW Y9U ARE WHEN YOU ARE A PARENT...OR STUDENT
posted by Postroad at 2:07 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wha?
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on August 23, 2010


Jody Tressider, I can imagine the shock of getting a phone call like that when your kid has moved away. Obviously I know nothing about you or your family, but I don't see why you think that you failed your son. It seems like he was involved in a youthful incident and you were there to support him all the way.

I think parents can drum in all the sense they want into their kids, but ultimately it's up to the kid to make a decision.

(FWIW with my earlier bonding with weed comment, my roommates and I never had any; it was more of a pathetic symbolic attempt to show we were adults by immediately doing one thing we knew our parents wouldn't allow.)
posted by dzaz at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2010


200 comments? Perhaps they would stop inventing and writing about these 'trends' if they weren't so incredibly successful at generating such a response.
posted by twirlypen at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have one observation to make: smarmy resentful comments about one cohort -- to wit, "baby boomers" -- are about as accurate, appropriate and productive as smarmy resentful comments about another -- to wit, "those lazy-ass millennials." For better or worse, it is impossible to generalize one way or the other about a perceived group.

Ironically, however, adjectives like "spoiled," "entitled," and "narcissistic" get thrown at both "baby boomer" parents and their "millennial" offspring in seemingly equal measure. For those of us who do not hail from the upper middle class cohort to which such descriptions and New York Times social trend reports seem to refer, it's annoying and, well, offensive.

(And I remain grateful that I wasn't raised with "helicopter" parents. Independence was / is a lot more fun.)
posted by SuzB at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am the child of helicopter parents. I moved to a different HEMISPHERE and they're still stalking me. It's nuts.

I was super-over-protected growing up. Apparently they were quite protective of my older sister, but as soon as I showed up they pretty much ignored her (which suited her nicely). I, on the other hand, didn't have the benefit of a younger sibling to bear the brunt of my parents' neuroses.

I was hardly allowed to do anything on my own - which was extra frustrating as I had shown a very independent streak from early on. (I was so desperate for independence that when I was 12 I managed to convince my parents to let me fly back home from London on my own by booking my flights two weeks after my dad's. It was bliss.) We lived somewhere with no decent public transport or even anything to do outside the house, so I was often at home and if I went anywhere I was driven. Malaysian culture didn't really allow for part-time jobs as youth, you were meant to spend all your time studying, and besides since my dad had a relatively high-powered job it would have been seen as demeaning. I remember the crazy phone ping-ponging between my parents and the organisers of a Savage Garden concert I won tickets for at 15 - SO MORTIFYING.

I so badly wanted to be an exchange student, or to go on overseas school trips (the very rare times it popped up), begged my parents to send me to boarding school overseas because school was torture (but that's a different story). No go. "YOU WILL DIE! HOW WILL WE THEN COPE?!". I'm surprised I ever made a field trip. The only time they let me apply to go on exchange was to a competitive program to Japan which was scholarship-based, which meant they didn't have to pay a cent. (I didn't get in.) Being diagnosed with depression and panic disorder in the final year of high school didn't help - instead of cottoning on that their overprotection contributed a ton to my neuroses, they just got worse about it. "YOU WILL PANIC AND DIE OUT THERE!"

There was no way I could get them to calm down. No way I could prove I'd be OK. Before I could take any shred of initiative they'd take what needed to be done and have their secretary do it. I hated it, but filial piety and my parents' constant admonishments that I was somehow single-handedly responsible for their wellbeing ("Don't give us a heart attack!") made this very difficult. Every attempt just lead to fights and heartbreak and illness. They gave up their dreams for their parents, they told me - why can't I?

It was especially tough when my sister - being a good deal older than I am - got the chance to escape to the UK and rebel early, dropping over 10 years of working in science to pursue her true love of art. I hadn't even managed to get past high school yet. I was never the conventional one, not by any means, but suddenly after my formerly-straight-laced sister went renegade extra pressure was put on me to be the "good one". What used to be "be more like your sister!" became "don't be like your sister! do what we tell you!". My sister didn't do anything wrong, but I couldn't help but resent her for many years for being able to break out early while I never got the chance.

My first week at my first university, in KL (4 hours away), my mum went up to everybody - including the grocery store owner at my apartment - and told them "Please take care of Tiara, she's never been out of the house before." Cue lots of facepalming. My friends felt sorry for me, but they found it amusing too. They would show up every few weeks, complain about how messy the place was (it wasn't too bad, but my standards of living were a lot relaxed compared to theirs), proceed to CLEAN UP EVERYTHING, and then scold me for not keeping it clean. I never got a chance! The first time I took public transport was crazy:

Mum: (on phone) Where are you off to?
Me: Oh, a project meeting in the city.
Mum: And is your friend picking you up?
Me: No, I'm taking a bus down.
Mum: WHAT ARE YOU KIDDING YOU WILL GET KILLED OR RAPED IN THE BUS IT'S NOT SAFE OUT THERE ad infinitum

I went anyway. It was uneventful. I enjoyed buses and trains (and the occasional taxi, which was more of a safety hazard) ever since.

I went for a major overseas tour in 2005, so determined to have my dream exchange-student life. My parents were surprised and tried to stop me, but after seeing how driven I was - but not getting anywhere with the funding, since Malaysia isn't really one of those places that have grants available despite my efforts - they paid up and let me go. BEST TRIP OF MY LIFE. I did endure challenges, including an injury & trip to hospital part-way through that left me on crutches for about a week, and I had to learn how to take care of myself really quickly. But I LOVED the freedom, I loved going on this massive worldwide adventure, and I loved that I was doing it without my parents barking at me every second. HEAVEN.

I was still bitten by the travel bug, and my parents were still insistent on me getting a degree (I dropped out of Uni #1 to travel). I worked in KL for a few months - in my own apartment, but my parents paid for it because they'd rather have control over the space than leave me with random housemates - and after an attempt at Dream Job didn't work, I finally agreed to my parents' wishes. But I stipulated that it had to be overseas, and I get to choose where and what I was doing.

Which was how I ended up going to Brisbane, doing a Creative Industries degree.

My mum followed me for my first week in Brisbane, sleeping in my dorm room. I felt like I needed to take care of her more than she was there for me. I picked up independence quite quickly, relishing whatever freedom I had, but I still wasn't free of my parents' worry and frustration. It didn't help that I hated university (the uni itself wasn't terrible, but it was pretty clear that I was happier being directly involved in projects rather than being an academic) and every semester I tried to make a break for it by applying to go on exchange or on a tour or be a KaosPilot or something, only for such efforts to fail. There were a few times in the past few years where I've had emotional breakdowns and Mum came by to hang out for a week or two, but again it turned into me needing to take care of Mum (when I could barely take care of myself). One time I wrote to my whole family telling them I was deeply unhappy at university and needed help - my parents' response was "Why are you calling us bad parents?!". Never said such a thing.

I ended up graduating uni almost by default. I thought that would finally satisfy my parents and that they'll calm down afterwards.
No go.

That was when I decided "fuck it, they'll never be happy, so I'll do what I want."

Last year sparked my long-delayed "teenage" rebellion (at 23). I drank for the first time - I've never liked the taste of alcohol, but did discover a taste for bubbly and certain cocktails. I finally indulged my need to be on stage and got into performance art. I explored sexuality and the body more openly. I jumped into the Brisbane queer scene. I ate, drank, tried things I never thought I would get the chance to. I am applying for permanent residency so that I can keep on staying here and getting involved, and right now I'm on a bridging visa awaiting a decision. I've made impromptu trips interstate and have managed to apply for high-stakes visas on my own (which is notable given that I have a Bangladesh passport and need visas for EVERYTHING). I've met and had close relationships with other parents who showed me that it is possible to have healthy relationships with your children without needed to be around them 24/7.

They haven't completely calmed down on the helicoptering. It doesn't help that my residency status makes it really difficult for me to get a job, so I still need an allowance from my dad. I do earn money freelancing and on contract but it's never enough for anything, and I still find it rather humiliating. I'm still learning to accept that not thinking about someone 24/7 doesn't mean you don't love them, contrary to my parents' expectations. I still get worried messages about how "It's been 3 days since I last heard from you!!". My parents only let my sister completely out of the nest when she got married last year at the age of 35, and they've said as much that they won't stop worrying about me until I get a husband (who presumably will take over the job of worrying).

I'm still learning a lot about being independent - my drive and desire doesn't always make up for inexperience and coddling. I am facing quite a number of challenges now that my peers had already dealt with as teenagers and so feel quite out of the loop. But it's been a lot better for my sanity ever since I cut myself out of the helicoptering, once I realised that my parents will never be satisfied, and the only person whose opinions matter is mine.
posted by divabat at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


I've found this whole thread very interesting (the article not so much), if a little difficult to understand from the other side of the world. Why is there such a premium on "tough experiences"? Does life become a picnic if someone's parents drive them to school or come to parents weekend and stay till Tuesday? And aren't these the same parents who've paid for college and everything else and are expected to keep their door open for their kids after college? I feel like no one *needs* to make life difficult; it's challenging enough as it is, no matter what it is. And families, happy or unhappy, are all so different from each other, ultimately -- who can judge from the outside what's going on? Even people within a family are always second-guessing each other's needs… whether to just feel like good parents/children or out of sheer, overwhelming concern or just so that neither blames or resents the other down the line; does it really matter? If the people in a relationship are not complaining, why judge them just because they don't conform to a particular ideal of functionality just because that's your ideal? Do we get a free license in this case just because a young adult is involved and can't possibly know what's objectively good parenting? Aren't we just giving children permission to judge their own parents by infuriatingly ridiculous standards? If they don't come to a school recital, they suck. But if they come to college orientation, they also suck... why? Because they were supposed to know this day was coming and should've prepared for it in the isolation of their own homes?
As of 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, for example, the parents of Princeton freshmen learn from the move-in schedule, “subsequent orientation events are intended for students only.” The language was added in recent years to draw a clear line, said Thomas Dunne, the associate dean of undergraduates. “It’s easy for students to point to this notation and say, ‘Hey, Mom, I think you’re supposed to be gone now,’ ” he said. “It’s obviously a hard conversation for students to have with parents.”
Yeah, stupid, clueless parents, they need to be told to leave so the student can get on with their adult lives. ♫ Hey, Dean, leave them parents alone! ♫

I feel like parents in the US have it very tough. I could be wrong, or I could've just have a skewed sample based on MeFi and my own time spent in the US, but gosh, parents (especially white, middle/upper-middle class ones) there seem held to ridiculous, often conflicting standards and are asked to expect very little in return. Save money for college tuitions, stay on top of the kid's needs and the child development psychology du jour, read and hear about terrible things happening to everyday kids in the media and then get blamed for being too involved in their lives, or too involved in your work, or for staying together in a bad marriage for them, or getting divorced and putting kids through divorce hell. And then, when you get old -- well, I'm generalizing here, but I don't get the sense that children are expected to stick around or take care of their parents, for the most part. In the long history of human civilization, this is so very new; modern parents need help and support in navigating these massive cultural shifts, not ridicule. (This is not to say that there aren't parents who infuriate teachers and fail to understand their very real challenges and limitations, but that seems to me more a *communication problem* -- maybe at a systemic/cultural level -- than a moral failing.)

Shit, we all have to let go of our kids and we all have to lose our parents. If you're not running to get to that milestone, why is it a bad thing? Life is already hard -- isn't that the message these same newspapers keep bleating all day long? And yes, there are good parents and bad parents, but the standard for unsatisfactory parenting should surely be higher than if they came along with their kid to an interview. Maybe it's the kid's first interview? Maybe they asked their parents to come along? Maybe the parent is just a neurotic micromanager who can't let go, but I sincerely doubt that they're there out of anything except their kid's best intentions at heart. In any case, not hiring that kid on that basis alone seems to me a very very poor decision; primarily just people unloading their own classist or personal resentments on someone else. I really don't know how else to look at it except punishment for the parent by punishing their kid. I mean the parent's not going to come to work with the kid, are they? Am I missing something totally obvious here?

I'm thinking about all the parents who're reading this article and judging themselves by these idiot NYT standards, and even the parents on this thread who're feeling compelled to justify their choices as a parent, having to say "no I'm not a helicopter parent" just because I made my kid's bed before having to make that terrible drive home from their college. Why are they being faulted for lingering? IANAP, but I think it would be really really difficult to watch my kid grow up and have to relinquish control (to the rest of the world) in a million ways from the day they're born to the day I drop them off to college, watch as they try to make a life for themselves and hope with all my heart that it's a good one, and… yeah, realize that I'm getting older and more irrelevant to them every day. It's fucking tragic. Life doesn't need to get harder than this, we just need to try harder to appreciate the good things we have, and feel downright blessed if we can count our parents among those good things. Maybe some of us even need to be shown *why* to count our parents among our blessings and how to communicate with them and have some compassion for them, and articles like this seem like a step in totally the wrong direction. Growing up is hard, and we need all the support we can get. But growing old is brutal. Especially in the US!

Just my 2 paise. Oh, and also: fuck the New York Times. I think at this point they're mostly making just the Carrie Bradshaws of the world feel good about not caring about anything unsuperficial.
posted by mondaygreens at 3:38 PM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


My parents were of the "when you turn 18 you're an adult" variety, so I was pretty much entirely responsible for applying for colleges and doing all the financial aid stuff and dealing with my own plans for the future. Subsequently, they drove me the four hours to the college I chose, sat outside the dorm drinking coffee while I hauled my stuff up three flights of stairs to my room (they had me late in life, and I felt bad asking them to haul my heavy crap up narrow winding stairs filled with crazy young people dashing about), then came up to see my room.

Mom made my bed and helped me put my clothes away, which didn't bug me (though it normally would have), because even though we were all ready for me to be an "adult", they were leaving me hundreds of miles from home in a town where the only people I knew at all were the college representatives I'd had dealings with. It wasn't as easy to say goodbye as we all thought it would be. But they hopped into the car about an hour later and were gone. I wouldn't see them again until they came to get me at Xmas break.

Then my roommate arrived with parents in tow, and they totally decorated her side of the room and were there for the rest of the weekend seriously just pretty much doing everything for her and going everywhere with her (yes, even to an on-campus job interview). The girl seemed nice enough, but her parents were driving me insane, and they continued to drive me insane for a month of constant visits ... until they called the dorm mom and asked if she could be moved to a different room because of "cultural differences" ... which the dorm mom explained to be bluntly as them not thinking their daughter should be rooming with a music/art major who grew up in a small "redneck" Texas town. Whatever. I got a private room out of the deal, so I didn't care.

Now I always knew I could go to my parents for help with something if I wanted it, but they raised me to be independent, and so I was. The only time they ever really did anything to "help" without my asking was when I turned 14 and wanted to get my first job. After weeks of reading the classifieds and asking around, the only things I found was farm work or construction work (for which I was wholly unsuitable), and so my dad asked his business-owning friends if any of them had anything I could do. He didn't actually get me a job or be involved beyond that though. He just handed me a list of people who said they might have something for me, and it was my responsibility to go talk to them and get hired (and then do the work). I was embarrassed enough that he'd done that, so I can't even imagine what mind-set it takes to allow a parent to come along to an actual INTERVIEW. I'd have seriously died if mine had even suggested it.

And now I have friends who are serious helicopter parents. Well, we don't actually hang out much anymore, because it pains me to see the way they don't let their almost grown children do anything for themselves. Most of the kids seem to like it, or at least don't seem bothered by it, but there are a couple I think will rebel wildly when they head off to college ... and a couple that will be taking parents to their job interviews. Ugh.

What's funny (or not, really), is that now that my dad has passed on, my mom has become a helicopter parent. At least as much as she can with me living an hour and a half away and me being 45 years old and married. Doesn't stop her from trying though. Today, for example, she called to ask if I wanted her to make my next dental appointment, because I need to get that finished and my last one was a few months ago. Um, no. I will make it when I am ready to make it (and when I can afford it and have time). It's a little aggravating to have been declared an adult at 18, lived my own life since then, and to now be faced with a parent wanting to be all up in my business on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

Sorry, got long-winded. Too much coffee!
posted by Orb at 3:38 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


What concerns me is that the young people in question don't seem to have any shame at all about bringing their parent(s) to a job interview or to their first class.

No way! I mean seriously, there is no fucking way this is happening. I couldn't have dragged the 'rents to my first class or a job interview. I would have been immensely embarrassed had they been present. They would have been equally embarrassed. There is no fucking way!

Man...cheek by jowl, the other half lives, etc. etc.
posted by telstar at 3:40 PM on August 23, 2010


I live in a well-off community with a great public school system. I have encountered my fair share of 'helicopter parents' while raising my two daughters (now 12 & 14).

My wife grew up with no parent involvement, while I had the 70s version of the helicopter parent ("You don't want that Space Food Stick and Tang! This carob bar and carrot juice are just as good...")

We try to keep things in perspective by not getting over involved in their school, unless they ask for our help, in which we become advocates, or if they are getting a C or lower. They know this and act accordingly.

The behavior I've seen from other parents is appalling. Demanding more homework for kids, complaining that physical education takes away from class time, sending their kids to tutoring every weeknight and on Saturdays, and don't get me started on the Science Fair projects...

Oh, and the attempt to prevent any student from bring any form of peanut butter to school was spectacular.

On the people in the 20s article, it's similar to what I faced as a GenX person. The boomers love to compare others to their idealized self.

I do notice a difference with the people in their 20s that I know. They tend to be much more picky about things than older generations. "This sucks because it doesn't meet my exact desires/wants/needs." I'm not sure if this is a result of the surfeit of choices these days, the idea that things could be modified to their desire, or simply growing up with unlimited choices compared to older generations. I mean, in the 80s for the most part the cheapest CD player was good enough as long as the CD tray opened and the music played. Today you got people whining about the iPhone 4 not having the correct feature set.

Also, people in their 20s tend to have terrible haircuts, drink bad beer, and like sad bands too much...
posted by Argyle at 4:09 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


What concerns me is that the young people in question don't seem to have any shame at all about bringing their parent(s) to a job interview or to their first class.

No way! I mean seriously, there is no fucking way this is happening.


I tend to agree, quite literally. You're telling me that the young person in question seems cheerful to have the company? Because any other expression carries the unspoken "This is not my idea. Do not judge me" plea.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


mondaygreens, your central thesis seems to be that insisting, or even just encouraging, parents to make a clean break with their adult children (and, rest assured, eighteen-year-olds in America are in fact adults, with the right to vote and enlist in the military) somehow constitutes throwing them away. Frankly, I find this to be rather absurd. Maybe it's just my Western perspective, but it seems that parents have plenty of opportunities to consult with and positively influence their children's lives without being physically present, and, unless they had children right at the end of their fertile period, they're hardly "old", even if they're in their fifties. And don't even get me started on the whole job interview thing; if a parent showed up with their adult child to a job interview that I was conducting, I would give them exactly one chance to get lost, with a polite but firm insistence that since they weren't interviewing for the position themselves, they weren't going to be part of the interview.

There's a bit from the NYT article (which, as seems typical for NYT articles of this type, says nothing about whether this is really that widespread or whether it's particularly new) that's telling, I think:
[One parent], a kindergarten teacher, said Grinnell’s message that at 4 p.m. college was starting and parents must go reminded her of what she tells the mothers and fathers of her pupils on the first day of school: “Say goodbye and just leave, because the kids calm down.”
That rite of passage--where parents have to trust their children to an institution of people that they don't know personally, and children start to learn to negotiate a social life with their peers--starts (or is supposed to start) at least thirteen years before college, at an age when I, at least, still wasn't able to tie my shoes, if not earlier in pre-school. And I don't think that anything that the parents choose to invest in their children's education, financial or otherwise, buys them the right to control their children's lives. They can always send their kids tweets to remind them that they love them, in between sweaty bouts of sex on the living room sofa (hopefully, they haven't turned the videophone feature on their iPhones on by mistake).
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:36 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


P.S. Please note that what I said in the last para above doesn't necessarily apply to homeschoolers, but gosh do I not want to open that particular can of worms.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:38 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a lot of families, college is a large expense and what you're seeing is just the manifestation of this. Grinnell, mentioned in the article, is fucking $45,012 a year with room and board.

When you're selling people the equivalent of a 4-year Ferrari, they begin treating it like one, and a Ferrari owner isn't going to just ignore the rattle in the glove box, he's going to take it to the dealer until it gets fixed.


Actually, Grinnell is one of the few need-blind schools and 85% of the students receive financial aid. More trauma comes to those that are from bigger cities who pull into a town of about 10,000 people and realize that yes, indeed, they are officially in Iowa. For what it's worth, I graduated from Grinnell about 15ish years ago when the cost was still over $20,000 a year and all but about $12,000 was covered through grants and scholarships.

I was also a SA (Grinnell's RAs). As I recall, the rules were pretty similar back then. All parents were to be out by 4:00. The students usually arrived relatively early to get things squared away in the rooms (most dorms had no elevators and no air conditioning, and August at Grinnell is about 90 degrees and 90% humidity). After the parents got done having heart attacks, we jumped in the car to go to Walmart, the only place in town to really stock up on anything. By the time that was over, no parent that I knew stayed around for any separation ceremony. Back them I think there was a meet and greet type thing, but parents just wanted the fuck out of that heat and to get someplace with less than 1000 people dropping off teenagers.

So, by the time the night came, the new first years were ready to explore. They had the campus to themselves during orientation except for the SAs and some additional staff. Between orientation events came beer followed by as much hooking up as was humanly possible. Few even called home. Parents were discouraged from calling. The kids had e-mail, but most parents didn't. Netscape had yet to launch. There were no cell phones and a call cost money...beer money. Plus, the less said about beer, sex, and pissing on the Zirkle at 2 a.m. (the phallic statute in the center of campus), the better.
posted by Muddler at 4:46 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a pushing-40 guy who works in retail, I just realized something: I'll be working with these fucking brats soon. Or (shudder) for them.

*pours drink*
posted by jonmc at 5:03 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The quietest phone call of my life was probably when I informed them that I was switching from pre-law to an acting degree, but there was no cavil. Later, my father would tell me, "That was when I knew I'd never get a Corvette for my birthday."

Maybe this has something to do with it. These days, at least judging by the responses to the "should I go to law school" AskMe questions, 99.9% of parents whose kids do go to law school won't be getting Corvettes, either.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:06 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


These days, at least judging by the responses to the "should I go to law school" AskMe questions, 99.9% of parents whose kids do go to law school won't be getting Corvettes, either.

Yep. Even worse, the law school grads of today could end up as adjunct college instructors working for pennies on the dollar with questionable benefits as exploited labor. But it could be worse. They could, you know, be lawyers.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:18 PM on August 23, 2010


Hamburger!
posted by joe lisboa at 5:20 PM on August 23, 2010


Wow - boomers keep getting younger and younger. I was a young one, and I'm 59. What happened?

For what it's worth, Doug Coupland, author of Generation X, is now 49.
posted by philip-random at 5:27 PM on August 23, 2010


Charles Lindbergh's helicopter mom accompanied him to college. He had to fly across the Atlantic to get away from her.

I can't find the early twentieth-century famous writer whose mother accompanied him to college.
posted by bad grammar at 5:32 PM on August 23, 2010


An Earth millenium ago, my parental units hugged me "goodbye" at our faster-than-light transportation portal, sixty light-years away.

Tough shit, motherfuckers.
posted by shadytrees at 5:33 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Halloween Jack, I didn't really have a thesis -- just an opinion that parenting is difficult and its challenges should be understood and dealt with, not dismissed or ridiculed. I did not say, and don't think, that parents should control their childrens' lives, regardless of the money they spend on them. But the sense I often got in the US media, and the reply I very often got when I asked a friend why they were upset with a particular choice their parent made, went something like: it's their job to be a good parent. And what being a good parent meant differed wildly from situation to situation and was often contradictory, but always supposed to be self-less. (Why?) And to my non-Western mind, somewhat… peculiarly cruel. (For instance, how is it culturally okay to make kids feel mortified about being seen with their parents? Why is parents' cluelessness both funny and condemned?) It wasn't about throwing them away, and I know that parents with college-aged kids aren't old -- it just seems a shame that young people (of a certain class) are given such a license to be embarrassed by their own parents while relying on them for practically everything, while parents must fall in a rather narrow and constantly shifting bracket of being involved just the right amount, until the right age. The free world seems free only for the kids in elite colleges, and... we know that's not anywhere near actually free, right?

What I mean is… yes, parents should not be able to buy control over their kids' lives with money, but while I've heard that argument many times, it seems to be made more against some kind of strawman parent that doesn't exist in the US anywhere near as much the vehemence of this argument would suggest. American parents are, for the most part, held to very strict standards about what adulthood and independence for their kids means (see the article; see this thread etc) and do prepare themselves for being, for the most part, spectators of their adult children's lives. I'm not saying this is a wrong way to be. It's clear from this thread alone that kids who have actually honest-to-god controlling parents not only suffer in their own lives but can also be punished by friends, prospective employers and so on. But… does adulthood mean only independence? Does rearing a child up to become Princeton-worthy have to exclude teaching that child about the struggles of being a parent? Does it have to involve alienation, or superficial, snap judgments of the parent-child relationship?

Parents who have money, I don't know if they can really buy control from their kids -- isn't that the stereotype of the spoiled rich kids? and isn't it possible that today's well-off parents are trying, in their way, to be smart and avoid having their privileged kids become spoiled or fall behind their Asian-American counterparts who stereotypically have actually superinvolved parents (see divabat's example above) and are succeeding financially in most spheres? -- but the helicoptering thing seems to me more about parents trying to buy control in the rest of the world. Which, you know, is what people do, with money, more or less. Is there *any* evidence to suggest that "superinvolved" parents by definition harass their own children -- a few examples here and there notwithstanding? Because what I hear and read about mostly is them harassing teachers. Which is terrible, like I said, but it does not automatically make for bad parenting, and is somewhat understandable to boot, because 1) yeah, money does move mountains in the US; the very fact that most teachers have to put up with it instead of being able to lay down their terms bears this out and 2) the increasing expectations that good colleges place on applicants and increasing competition for good jobs in the US can make it difficult for the moderately well-off to feel secure or even that they're doing a sufficient job of giving their kids the best future they are able to.

I've been re-reading the comments on this thread. A couple of people's parents do sound nuts, and guess what, their children have grown up to understand the ways in which their parents did make their life less fun or downright difficult. But a lot of criticism about other people's parents seems to me extremely subjective and rather superficially arrived at. Just because someone doesn't do exactly what you would do in a situation does not automatically make them a bad parent. Ideas about parenting differ, and articles like this undermine people's convictions about their own worth as parents without offering a whit of perspective or insight that might actually help parents and children, or parents and teachers, understand each other better or do a better job for the kids.

If I did have to offer a thesis, it would be this: channels of communication and models of understanding in the US are increasingly commercialized, and most media opinionators are hacks and shills whose interests lie in breaking those channels down further. Like you said, a few examples prove absolutely nothing, but what examples are chosen says a lot about the biases and intent of those making the selections and drawing the conclusions. Parents and children don't have to make a clean break in order for the child to become a functional, thriving adult, and neither a college nor a newspaper have any business butting in and offering really, really simplistic opinions about what does or does not constitute "excessive parenting". In a world moved by money, everyone has an axe to grind, and yeah -- I do think most parents get no societal respect and a *lot* of blame. My point is not that that blame is not deserved; it is that parents have no support and practically all the people they interact with for their child's well-being are paid professionals. Which is not exactly "it takes a village," is it?

Look, I think most children expect our parents to be perfect, and it sucks when they are not. But a society should not be pushing its younger people to judge their parents' every decision, should it? At the very least, not without doing some serious counter-work in helping the kids empathize with or at least allow for the numerous, numerous ways in which most parents struggle to provide a good home and life to their kids. Okay, I know it's the US and parenting might be a job like any other. It doesn't have to be a thankless one, and it doesn't have to be an alienated one.

As for the interview thing -- sure, if a parent doesn't leave even on being clearly communicated to that their presence will damage their kid's chance or downright disqualify them, dismiss them by all means. What I wouldn't really understand is not communicating this to the parent (due to the possible inconvenience of having to deal with a complaint from them) and dismissing them anyway.
posted by mondaygreens at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not the parents I don't understand, it's the kids. I mean, how mortified would I have been...

A couple things:

Sometimes the kids ARE pretty mortified. At my last office, my least favorite part of my job was being the intern coordinator. From time to time (although, thankfully, not ALL that often), I would get phone calls from parents asking about internship application deadlines and requirements (all of which were clearly posted on our website), asking if I had received their kid's application yet and when I would be getting back to them, trying to put in a good word for their kid, or bragging about some tenuous family connection to the office that I was supposed to be impressed by (doubtful). These kids' applications generally went straight to the bottom of the pile; however, the following conversation actually happened more than once:
Caller: Hi, is this naoko? This is Suzy Smith.
Me: Oh hello, Suzy, I was just speaking to your mother earlier today. Were there additional questions you had about the application process?
Caller: OH MY GOD, MY MOTHER CALLED? I AM SO SO SO SO SORRY, I HAD NO IDEA, I AM SO EMBARRASSED, OH MY GOD.

As several people above have alluded to, you can't start the process of teaching your child self-sufficiency all of a sudden at 18. Responsibility, pride in doing something well by oneself, etc. are things that kids need to be taught incrementally from a young age - and they're not going to magically absorb it by themselves without any positive parental influence. And relatedly, it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that an 18-year-old who is treated like a child will act like a child. So, to the extent that this is a trend (and I am a little dubious on that point), I do think parents should take more of the blame here

A lot of people seem to want to do this half-complaining/half-bragging thing about how, unlike the kids in this article, your parents didn't give you anything, and that's why you're so TOUGH! today. Count your blessings - you have resources of concrete skills, inner strength, and self-respect that these kids probably don't have and maybe never will.
posted by naoko at 6:26 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I drove to college, starting applying to jobs and went to my first class three days later. A week later, my parents stopped by, dropped off a few things that wouldn't fit in my car and headed out for their vacation.

While my Dad was getting something out of the car, my Mom gave me $100 a told me not to tell my father.

When my Mom went to get in the car to leave, my Dad walked in to say goodbye. He then gave me $100 and told me not to tell my mother.

Next time I saw them was Thanksgiving.
posted by spaltavian at 6:31 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


you can't start the process of teaching your child self-sufficiency all of a sudden at 18. Responsibility, pride in doing something well by oneself, etc. are things that kids need to be taught incrementally from a young age - and they're not going to magically absorb it by themselves without any positive parental influence.

This.

And it all starts with those goddamned Velcro sneakers.

Seriously, no kid knows how to do a bunny knot anymore.
posted by dzaz at 6:47 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, my older cousin dropped me off at college, and that was that.
posted by yarly at 7:07 PM on August 23, 2010


200 comments? Perhaps they would stop inventing and writing about these 'trends' if they weren't so incredibly successful at generating such a response.

This is it, as well. I got my comments in upthread, because as a teacher of college students, I have experienced the (thankfully rare) helicopter parents and, at the same time, I've also listened to boomers a few years older than I complain about "those kids today".

But really, this is an NYT feature article. I've personally been involved in helping an NYT writer connect--in good faith--to members of a community that I used to moderate so she could do a story on the DIY community and demo parties. Unbeknownst to us, the journalist had an agenda going in. She was determined to write a story about DIY'ers who "demo drunk". Which would have been fine if the people who she interviewed had those experiences. But she twisted the words and creatively edited the quotes of some of her interviewees to make it sound as if they had been wielding sledge hammers while wasted. I knew some of the people interviewed personally and knew that she had horribly misrepresented their stories in order to chase page views. I don't doubt that if the "helicopter parents" topic gets the NYT some page views, they will trot it out every chance that they can get.
posted by jeanmari at 7:19 PM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Frankly, I'm just morally superior to all of you, so I'm not sure why you keep trying.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:24 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to know what happened at Easter.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:30 PM on August 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus rose from the dead.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


And it all starts with those goddamned Velcro sneakers.

It starts earlier than that, my soon to be sister in law kept asking my 2 year old if she was thirsty. At 2 they're damm well old enough to ask for a drink if they want one.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:53 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh, I go to the same college as my youngest daughter. We share a house with a relative who teaches there - about a mile from campus, so no dorms... The most I've been involved with her schooling is to ask her how she's doing this semester and let her know if a prof sucks or not (I've been here longer than she has). I can't even imagine going on a job interview with her - that would be mortifying.

I don't know if it makes a difference, but we both receive financial aid because we're dirt poor and that's about the only way we can pay for college. That takes us out of the upper middle class criteria, and I'm a little young to be a baby-boomer (43).
posted by patheral at 8:44 PM on August 23, 2010


naoko: Heh, I've had some Suzy Smith moments.

This happened to me LAST MONTH:

Dad: Hey, can you send me your latest resume?
Me: ...ok, why?
Dad: I'm applying for a job for you. It's in Perth. 9-5 corporate job.
Me: WHAT DAD ARE YOU KIDDING?! DO NOT DO THAT. NO NO NO NO NO.
Dad: Why not?!
Me: Firstly, it's in Perth (which is 8 hours away by PLANE). Secondly, it's a 9-5 corporate job. Thirdly, I have no idea what the heck the job is. And WHY ARE YOU APPLYING FOR JOBS ON MY BEHALF ANYWAY!?
Dad: But you're not getting any jobs! You've been unemployed for almost 2 years! THINK ABOUT IT. If there's a job you HAVE to take it, even if it's in Perth! BE SENSIBLE!
Me: ...

yes, because applying for jobs for your adult daughter across the country without her knowledge or consent is somehow *more* sensible than being a freelancer slash performance artist. Gotcha.

>_<
posted by divabat at 8:50 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Well, it's not on fire, so that's good!" they all but said before leaping into the car and speeding away to their newfound non-kid-populated life.

After my younger brother followed me off to school my parent's changed their answering machine message to "Hello. You've reached the Cyrano's. And the kids are both at college so we are partying!"

It took a few months before the combined efforts of me and my brother convinced them to change it. Not that everyone wasn't happy with the arrangement. We just didn't think everyone who called needed to know how often they were fucking.
posted by Cyrano at 9:04 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Argyle: "Oh, and the attempt to prevent any student from bring any form of peanut butter to school was spectacular."

That's because if there's a student that has a severe nut allergy, even carrying around an EpiPen, a parent monitoring what's on the school menu and the kid knowing what not to eat to trigger an allergy, if he or she is exposed to an allergen, IT CAN KILL THEM.

posted by ShawnStruck at 9:57 PM on August 23, 2010


I've worked at a university for 7 years now. One of the things I love about my new job is that I'm providing a service to faculty and staff rather than students. It isn't that I didn't like my previous job, because I liked it a lot. This time of the year, and really all summer, though, were the toughest parts because of the parents. I'd be trying to help the new student set up their account, and their parent would try to take over the keyboard and do it for them. "FERPA," I'd say and then politely explain it. "State laws, too." I'd get phone calls from parents whose college-aged students had forgotten their password. "Well, send them to see me; I'm at the Union lab all day." They'd ask why I couldn't just do it for them over the phone, since they were the ones paying for it. It got to be pretty maddening.

When I went to college in '86, I chose a school about a half hour from where I'd lived. My then boyfriend had a truck, which was handy for hauling my stuff. My parents showed up just long enough to help me get ensconced, took us to dinner, and then said, "Call if you need something, but not too often. Oh, and just so you know, if you end up in jail, we will not be bailing you out." Then, they went home. I was home for holidays, the weekend after I got my wisdom teeth removed, and a few rare but welcome invites home for a night or weekend of my parents' cooking. I'm an only child who they'd let roam within reason from an early age.

They were even patient with me when I had a change of mind and wanted to take some times off from school and figure my stuff out. When I went back a year and a half later, I had to pay for a semester myself (lived with my grandmother who needed the company and worked the holiday season at her country club... ugh at the dirty old men and other headaches, but I saved up just enough), and they let me live with them for a year and helped me pay for books. Since I couldn't pay any rent, I asked them what housework I could do. Cook, dishes, clean, laundry, iron Dad's shirts? I was ready to do it. They looked at each other like "who is this person?" because I came back from my travels humbled and ready to get to work. I truly understood that they were helping me. Mom was then working in the same town as my school, so I commuted in with her every day and treated school like a job. This is a time I cherish now, because Mom and I had a weekly double-15 dominoes best 2 out of 3 time, we could have a drink together, and they knew how much I appreciated them. I managed to get a chemistry lab assisting/teaching job, so I had some spending money.

We all also appreciated the weekends I'd stay with friends. They'd gotten used to not having "the kid" around and I was old enough to understand that. Mom would occasionaly loan me her car for the weekend and I'd bring it back Sunday clean and with a full tank.

With my own kids, who are 13 and 12, I've tried to start the process for the past couple years. Here's how to use the public transportation and the walking and biking trails. Here's how to make food. Here's how to keep a reasonable living space. I show up for parent-teacher conferences, because not doing so marks a person as a "bad parent" here, even if your kid gets straight As. I sign off on their day planners (required for the past few years, or they get punished with detentions or Saturday school) and keep a loose eye on their homework and grades until it gets to the point where something needs to be said. I don't want them to be further examples of some college students I've seen in the last few years, who seem to have no idea of how to take care of themselves.
posted by lilywing13 at 10:04 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


It seems like mefites like to posture and brag about how their parents abandoned them at midnight at midnight on their 18th birthday (as evidenced by this comment. I don't see why it's not just as adult for both parents and kids starting college to be able to show some affectation and be honest about missing each other. To me, that kind of honesty, along with proper boundary setting is really the beginning to having a mature and close relationship with one's parents as an adult.

My parents helped me move down (took my stuff down, helped carry it up, took me shopping since I didn't have a car), and said they would miss me, and all that kind of stuff. We went out to eat together afterward as kind of a milestone marker. I was only about two hours away, but I only really saw them at major holidays, because we didn't care. Furthermore, the year before college, I was out of the country for the entire year, and only spoke to them once every month or two. What I'm trying to say is that it's absolutely possible to have an affectionate and emotional goodbye when you leave your parents' home, and that this doesn't necessarily reflect on your maturity or independence either way.
posted by !Jim at 11:01 PM on August 23, 2010


In 15 years as a professor, I have never once had to deal with a parent about a grading issue, and very rarely about anything else except the occaisional mental health crisis.

There's a lot of exaggeration in this thread.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:12 AM on August 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


And it all starts with those goddamned Velcro sneakers.

It starts earlier than that, my soon to be sister in law kept asking my 2 year old if she was thirsty.


It all starts with sippy cups, then.
posted by dzaz at 4:37 AM on August 24, 2010


yes, because applying for jobs for your adult daughter across the country without her knowledge or consent is somehow *more* sensible than being a freelancer slash performance artist. Gotcha.

Um, if I was giving an allowance to my adult daughter, there's no way I would be as supportive as your father is of you. You have to decide to be financially & social independent OR financially and socially dependent. You don't get to pick and choose. Most of us don't even have the option of financial support under any conditions, you really have it a lot better than you think you do.
posted by fermezporte at 5:48 AM on August 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


And it all starts with those goddamned Velcro sneakers.

Spoken like someone who has never tried to tie the shoes of a squirming 2 year old.
posted by DU at 5:56 AM on August 24, 2010


Spoken like someone who has never tried to tie the shoes of a squirming 2 year old.

Spoken as someone who's taught her three kids and dozens of preschoolers how to tie their shoes.
posted by dzaz at 6:04 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


...but yes, 2 year olds are definitely a squirmy crowd. 6th graders who never learned how to do bunny ears, less so.
posted by dzaz at 6:05 AM on August 24, 2010


Um, if I was giving an allowance to my adult daughter, there's no way I would be as supportive as your father is of you. You have to decide to be financially & social independent OR financially and socially dependent. You don't get to pick and choose. Most of us don't even have the option of financial support under any conditions, you really have it a lot better than you think you do.

I think that this gets at the reality of helicopter parenting. If you are going to keep receiving financial subsidies from your parents for basic living expenses well into your adult life, they are going to keep having a say in your life. You're still a dependent, still taking on more of a child's role in that relationship. This doesn't excuse everything they do, but I think that there's a limit of how much independence you can claim while receiving an allowance.

The helicopter parents I see in the US are similarly providing tons of support, and feel (quite rightly, in my opinion) that their huge investment of time and money gets them some say in the kid's life.
posted by Forktine at 6:31 AM on August 24, 2010


This doesn't excuse everything they do, but I think that there's a limit of how much independence you can claim while receiving an allowance.
The thing is, federal law disagrees. It may be fair and just that a parent who is paying for his or her kid's education gets to know the kid's grades, but I've still got to abide by FERPA. You can call and yell at me and call me names and threaten to contact major donors, but if I tell you anything about your kid, I could lose my job and go to jail. If you want the right to your kid's private information, you need to contact your Congressional representatives about chaning federal privacy laws.

(I do get phone calls from parents, although not all that often. I'd say I get a call from a parent maybe every other week. Some of them are totally reasonable, some of them are things where it would have been easier if the student had called but whatever, and every once in a while I get one that makes me want to hug the kid and refer the entire family for counseling.)
posted by craichead at 6:47 AM on August 24, 2010


That's because if there's a student that has a severe nut allergy, even carrying around an EpiPen, a parent monitoring what's on the school menu and the kid knowing what not to eat to trigger an allergy, if he or she is exposed to an allergen, IT CAN KILL THEM.

Yes, I know the reason. Someone with that allergy should not eat peanut butter. But IT WILL NOT KILL THEM if someone else eats peanut butter at the same school as them. This kind of overreaction and hyperbole is exactly the kind of behavior I see in helicopter parents at my children's school.
posted by Argyle at 7:17 AM on August 24, 2010


But IT WILL NOT KILL THEM if someone else eats peanut butter at the same school as them.

No, but the concern is that kids aren't awesome at things like "Not smearing peanut butter on someone else's face" or "Not getting the peanut butter from your sandwich on the pencils that other kids will use." I know it's extreme and yeah, it seems pretty silly, but with severe nut allergies it can be pretty dangerous and puts the school at a serious liability if a kid has an allergic reaction because Joey with the peanut butter sandwich forgot to wash his hands after lunch.

It's easier to prevent a lawsuit by not allowing peanut butter or peanut products in the first place than it is to try and watch each kid's lunch to see who has peanut butter and make sure that their food and/or hands in no way touch that of the kid with the allergy.

Silly, yes, but a lot of things that are primarily to prevent lawsuits are pretty silly. (Think of this in the category of "CAUTION HOT BEVERAGE" on your coffee cup. Only with sandwiches.)
posted by sonika at 7:22 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wish kids were still allowed to bring in cupcakes for their birthdays. That's kind of a bummer.
posted by dzaz at 7:30 AM on August 24, 2010


I just wish kids were still allowed to bring in cupcakes for their birthdays. That's kind of a bummer.

Not for the teacher's sanity! Just sayin', when I taught preschool I loathed any occasion that involved the communal ingestion of sugar. It probably would be better if they just came out and said "Look, we don't need 18 sugar high kids." rather than creating some fake reason, but honestly, birthday parties were HELL.
posted by sonika at 7:36 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "sugar-high" is a myth. An extremely fascinating one, though.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: Please to spend an afternoon with 18 children who have just consumed cupcakes and candy and get back to me on that "myth."
posted by sonika at 7:55 AM on August 24, 2010


Like I said, a fascinating myth.

When we give kids sugar-free cupcakes without telling them, they still act up despite the lack of sugar. Or more rightly, adults will report that they act up if we aren't aware of the sugar-free contents of the cupcake. So either we are teaching kids that sugary foods are an "excuse" to act up, or we are biased reporters.
posted by muddgirl at 8:01 AM on August 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I forgot to mention that these studies set aside the issue of children who have diet-sensitive ADHD.
posted by muddgirl at 8:02 AM on August 24, 2010


The thing is, federal law disagrees. It may be fair and just that a parent who is paying for his or her kid's education gets to know the kid's grades, but I've still got to abide by FERPA. You can call and yell at me and call me names and threaten to contact major donors, but if I tell you anything about your kid, I could lose my job and go to jail.

craichead,
I think you're the second person in this thread to suggest that parents have absolutely limited rights because of Ferpa.


However, our experience was that Ferpa permits the student to allow his or her parents some access to his or her college records. ("Have your child complete a consent form that authorizes the release of his/her education records to the parents". )

When the shit hit the fan big time for our freshman student son - and he found himself in the miserable position of needing our active help, he voluntarily signed a consent form so that we weren't also up against a wall of official "no comment" from the college regarding his records.

I mention this because time and time again, less-than-helpful college officials gave us the "we respect your son's privacy" speech - and each time we explained that he had signed said consent form and that this form was in his file - we still met resistance - until the official reluctantly checked his file. Then it was all "oh...well, okay then. But that's not normal....[mutter, mutter]".

(Given - in our situation - that the college itself had not exactly been super respectful of our son's privacy, this was somewhat salt in the wound...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2010


So either we are teaching kids that sugary foods are an "excuse" to act up, or we are biased reporters.

I've been careful never to imply to a kid that sweets or other "junk" foods will make them hyper, but it happens anyway. Possibly it's just the excitement of having a special snack, but in any case, cupcakes induce riots. Maybe it's not the sugar content per se, but the "high" effect of having sweets in a classroom is an absolute nightmare.
posted by sonika at 8:06 AM on August 24, 2010


I've been careful never to imply to a kid that sweets or other "junk" foods will make them hyper, but it happens anyway.

I never meant to imply that you are the only source of socialization for children.

Banning birthday celebrations from the classroom to cut down on horseplay is arguably a good idea. Blaming it on a mythical "sugar high" just re-enforces the myth.
posted by muddgirl at 8:33 AM on August 24, 2010


Eh, give kids dinner rolls when they're lagging and they'll become hyper. Kids + carbs = romper. It's not that difficult.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 AM on August 24, 2010


I think I'm with muddgirl on this one. Cupcakes, cookies, cake, sweets in general in a classroom --- they don't just happen in isolation. They're part of some celebratory situation (last day of school, somebody's birthday, Christmas party etc) and as such, we must consider all the contributory factors in the situation, not just one .... unless we're just looking for a simple solution to a complex problem.
posted by philip-random at 8:53 AM on August 24, 2010


Personally, I'd like to see "sweet food" move entirely from it's current position as Evil Temptation, to a more wholesome place in American diets. But this is getting extremely off topic, no thanks to me.
posted by muddgirl at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, our experience was that Ferpa permits the student to allow his or her parents some access to his or her college records. ("Have your child complete a consent form that authorizes the release of his/her education records to the parents". )
Right. And usually, a student who is really in crisis will do that. The problem is that parents don't always understand that I can't share any information with them until their kid has signed the waiver form. Sometimes the student won't do it. Sometimes the parent wants information *right now* and doesn't understand that I can't give it.

I promise you that I don't withhold information about waiving FERPA. Parents learn about it at parent orientation. I talk to students about it at our first meeting. When a parent calls, I tell him or her where the student can find the waiver form online. But FERPA isn't negotiable. It is not me being a jerk and denying you information just to be mean. It's not me making assumptions about your parenting skills. I can't violate federal law. No amount of badmouthing me or screaming at me is going to change that.
posted by craichead at 8:59 AM on August 24, 2010


When a parent calls, I tell him or her where the student can find the waiver form online.

Seriously, good for you craichead.
(Our experience was so frustrating - even though I was polite with college officialdom, despite all, even to the point of sounding craven!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:08 AM on August 24, 2010


n-thing that this isn't anything new: Douglas MacArthur's mom moved to be close to him when he went to West Point:

MacArthur entered West Point on June 13, 1899,[11] and his mother also moved there to a suite at Craney's Hotel, overlooking the grounds of the Academy.[12] Hazing was widespread at West Point at this time, and MacArthur and his classmate Ulysses S. Grant III were singled out for special attention by southern cadets as sons of generals with mothers living at Craney's.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:27 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


sonika: I've been careful never to imply to a kid that sweets or other "junk" foods will make them hyper, but it happens anyway.

You've been careful. But the rest of the world hasn't. You've probably also been careful not to imply that girls should wear pink and be quiet while boys should wear blue and be loud, but I guarantee you the kids know this anyway.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:17 PM on August 24, 2010


You've probably also been careful not to imply that girls should wear pink and be quiet while boys should wear blue and be loud, but I guarantee you the kids know this anyway.

Oh man, let's not even get into kids and gendered behavior. If you want to know who the "gender police" are, they're five year old girls. I don't know why they do this, but suddenly they flip this switch and it's all "You're wearing brown shoes! Your shoes are boy shoes!" and you're all "Um? They're my shoes."

Not that I have experience with this or anything.
posted by sonika at 12:25 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


You've probably also been careful not to imply that girls should wear pink and be quiet while boys should wear blue and be loud, but I guarantee you the kids know this anyway.

This fantastical place where girls are quiet: I want to go to there.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


My parents drove me and myself the hour and a half to campus, helped me carry stuff up to the 6th floor, took me and a friend to dinner and then went home. Mom handed me a calling card and said that I should probably call at least once a month if I didn't want her to think I was dead.

First day of classes was yesterday...I saw parents helping their child find all their classes. *sigh*
posted by schyler523 at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2010


...took me and a friend to dinner...

Your imaginery friend "Myself," I assume? ; )
posted by ericb at 1:44 PM on August 24, 2010


fermezporte: You have to decide to be financially & social independent OR financially and socially dependent. You don't get to pick and choose. Most of us don't even have the option of financial support under any conditions, you really have it a lot better than you think you do.

Here, have my Bridging visa, come to Australia, have my ethnic name, and try applying for any damn job you can find like I did for the past couple of years. I didn't want the allowance and didn't have one for a while but it was getting to the point where I couldn't pay rent and could hardly eat.
posted by divabat at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2010


For you twenty- and thirty-somethings just now starting your families:

Please, please start gauging your expectations for your children and the younger generation now. They will live in a world that we can barely fathom, with economic issues that we cannot predict, and with educational boundaries that have not yet been set.

Be good to them, try to understand them, try to help them along their way. Never, ever measure them up to you, or your spouse, or your parents. Because there will come a point when your children, and the younger generation, will inevitably appear to be so much worse (read: lazier, less educated, less motivated, more entitled) than we are today, here, in August of 2010.

Ten, twenty, thirty years down the line, when the younger generation seems so much worse, understand: they will be so much better than us. We may not be able to see it; but they will be better than us, must be better than us, or else we just haven't done our job.

Let us never resign to blaming the youth for our own follies.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:25 PM on August 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Let us never resign to blaming the youth for our own follies.

Meh. Youth have the follies of youth, age the follies of age, and Rousseau was full of shit. But then I prefer my Jacques in the melancholy flavor.
posted by Diablevert at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2010


Oh man, let's not even get into kids and gendered behavior. If you want to know who the "gender police" are, they're five year old girls. I don't know why they do this, but suddenly they flip this switch and it's all "You're wearing brown shoes! Your shoes are boy shoes!" and you're all "Um? They're my shoes."

I brought home a tiny leopard zipper pouch with handles from a work event a few years ago. My kids are two and a half now. This Spring, my daughter discovered it on a shelf, announced it was "Mah Purse!" and started carrying it around. After a while she grew tired of it, requested a different one and we gave her a tiny pink duffel bag-shaped pouch to carry around instead. She puts her toys in it and carries that darn thing everywhere.

About a month ago, my son picked up the leopard pouch and announced "My purse!" And that was that. It's his now. He carries it with him everywhere.

Two weekends ago, my mother spent 20 minutes lecturing me that it was inappropriate for a boy his age (30 months) to have "...a leopard purse. Have you lost your mind? He even calls it a purse! He's carrying it around in public! You have to put a stop to this!"

My wife and I could care less what he calls it, and I'm sure my son carrying a leopard purse around isn't going to scandalize the neighbors. He's a kid. Let him enjoy being innocent for a while without having his identity be imposed on him by adults. But in an effort to keep the peace my wife bought him a tiny camouflage backpack with zippers all over it. It's ostensibly an iPod case, but it's the right size for a toddler.

My wife: "I brought home something special for you! It's your very own backpack, just like on Dora! This is all yours! A new backpack!"
My son: "Yay! Packback! I hold it?"
"Sure!"
"Yay! My purse!"

This Sunday he proudly presented his new backpack to my mom, and corrected her repeatedly that it is "No Packback. Purse. See? My Purse!"

Heh.
posted by zarq at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


My son: "Yay! Packback! I hold it?"

My son called his a "pack-pack" for the longest time.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:53 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I am a little jealous that this girl gets this kind of support without having to reinvent the wheel every time she wants to learn something new.

But that "re-inventing the wheel" or learning establish concepts by self-discovery, makes us much better at learning new things in the long run. This mom may be sacrificing her daughter's long-term success (life success) for short-term material gain.

I deal with parents and kids on a daily basis and I would rather see parents more involved with their children.

As a former coach and someone who has lots of friends in education, almost everyone I know echoes that sentiment. Helicopter parents are not a problem for the very large majority of children.

They are, however, a real problem for teachers and people who work with kids...

The thing is that they are much more visible (and vocal!) that the neglectful parents. If I'm coaching a team with 9 kids who have neglectful parents, and one who's a helicopter dad screaming at me about his kid's playing time, "helicopter" parents are a bigger problem for me than neglectful parents.

But not for the kids.

Her argument is that "helicopter parenting" (which she calls "parenting out of control") is an upper-middle-class phenomenon that gives elite kids some real advantages in college and perpetuates class inequality.

...

The bigger question for me is why does this problem only appear with first world nations?

Permit my bias, but it sounds like everything else in capitalist culture. The top 1% are trying to claim more spoils for themselves and their children.

When we give kids sugar-free cupcakes without telling them, they still act up despite the lack of sugar.

That's always been my theory as well. Kids get all hopped up and crazy because they are HAPPY THAT THEY ATE A FUCKING CUPCAKE. Kids are marvelously and wonderfully simple. Sometimes.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:58 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


5 Worries Parents Should Drop, And 5 They Shouldn't
posted by Artw at 8:14 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Has college sendoff always been so tough? -- "Letting go seems harder for today's involved parents."
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on September 8, 2010


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