Friday 18 September 2015

Helicopter Mother, or just a drone?

I did a naughty thing yesterday.

I was sorting laundry and suddenly realised that Littleboy 2 had merrily gone off to school clutching his swimming towel and goggles, for swim lesson, but minus the actual trunks.

At first I told myself that it would be fine, he'd borrow a pair from Lost Property (his brother has done that before) and I shouldn't interrupt my day. But I kept imagining his little face falling when he opened his bag and found the trunks weren't in there. My heart contracted, and I knew what I had to do.

So I jumped in the car, hair still wet from the shower, and zoomed down to the school to hand over the trunks, reaching the door just as his lesson was about to start.

Now this was naughty why? Well firstly, the school sent out an edict last year that parents were not to keep coming to school to hand over forgotten PE kit. It's a big school and it must happen fairly often, so I can understand it's a pain if they have to keep sending a teacher /helper to deliver missing items of clothing. (Perhaps in the future we should have drones to do it, like Amazon? Now that's an idea.)

But that's not the real reason it was bad. It was bad because, as I discuss with The Doctor all the time, I am not supposed to be the policeman of the bags. The boys are supposed to be checking their own stuff now in the morning and if something doesn't make it to school, on their own head be it. This patently doesn't happen: frankly, just getting Littleboy 2 out of bed and dressed in time for the school run is an achievement, let alone getting him to check his bag.

There have been plenty of articles in the media recently about helicopter parenting and how we are raising a generation of children who don't know how to do anything for themselves. By constantly being there for our children, making sure they're OK and helping them do their best, we're actually doing them a disservice, goes the argument. We should take a step back, let them look after themselves, like our parents' generation who just let us get on with it.

I generally agree with all of this. At my kids' age I was going to and from school by myself (on the Peak Tram in Hong Kong! I didn't know how lucky I was) and a year later travelling to boarding school on a plane. I don't ever remember much parental input in homework. I don't particularly WANT to be that mother insanely running to school with a pair of swimming trunks, and I want my children to grow up self-reliant.

But I think part of the problem now is the pressure that mothers, in particular, feel from all angles of the media to be perfect. If our kids fail at something, we get the blame. And if we aren't super-vigilant, we are terrible people -- this can range from the parents that are investigated by Social Services for letting their kids become obese, to the "free range" parents in the US who get arrested for letting their kids walk home from the park alone,  to the vilification of the McCann parents for leaving their children unattended in a holiday resort.

"Parenting," a word that didn't really exist in the 70s, is something every commentator has a view on. So of course we feel we have to be on the case 24/7, and making sure our kids don't forget their homework, lunch or swimming things, is a part of all that.

Incidentally, men don't seem to share our guilt, possibly because negligent fathering isn't a "thing" in the press.

What do you think? How do you square the whole helicopter debate?  And should I have chilled out over the trunks?

Thursday 3 September 2015

Last of the summer suncream

The suncreams, all three of them, sit folornly by the door, unused since our holiday. Last week's tennis camp was necessarily indoors, so there was no use for the big tube of kids' factor 50, small tube to take with them, or indeed my special my non-greasy face cream.

Now the new term has started, and (bar a September heatwave) it won't be until next summer that we have to think about creams, hats and water bottles. Instead, we spent the last few days ensuring school shoes fit, arranging uniform on chairs and having last minute panics over mislaid pencil cases.

Reconvening at school, the children have seemingly all grown a couple of inches; some just look like they've been stretched out like elastic, others are more bulky. Most are sun-browned (clearly none of us put on quite enough of that cream, or perhaps, like me, we've decided to mind our Vitamin D), and most of the parents at the school gate sport a post-holiday glow that makes them look more relaxed than usual. We swap anecdotes of last minute shoe-shopping, holidays mishaps and new concerns about our children. We're regretful that summer is over, but also relish the school-gate conversation after a two month break.

At home, I pack away the swimming costumes, the shorts and the sarongs, and start thinking about plays to book, articles to write, social engagements to arrange. The house seems empty - even though I've often been on my own over the summer, while the boys are out at activities, today it seems to echo more than usual.

For everyone starting the new school year today -- may it be a good one.