The epithet that no parent wants thrown his or her way:  “Helicopter parent!”

I have to confess I am an unwilling helicopter parent.  I never asked for this, and I rail at being forced into the role.

I come from a generation where parents NEVER hoped to be their children’s best friends.  Parents were generally supportive of their high school kids’ activities, but those activities were usually limited to high school offerings.  No one was shuttled to AAU, to Odyssey or to CYO.  Most of us kids were bored on the weekends, and that was perfectly fine with our parents.  “Go out and play.”  Implicit in that directive: come home in time for dinner, or there may not be food left for you.

How did the pendulum swing so far in the course of just one generation?

When first faced with a CYO travel team in 4th grade, I was stunned at the time commitment involved, and just how far we would be traveling.  I called siblings with older nieces and nephews.  “WHAAAAAAAT?  Really?  Did you do this?”  It was explained to me that if you have the slightest inkling your child may want to play high school sports, then you must participate in these preparatory programs that, yes, begin in elementary school.  “If you don’t, your child will be behind the others in skills and plays.  They’ll never make the high school team.”  So we gave up weekends and skiing in the winter, started selling 50/50 raffle tickets when required, even flipped burgers at the concession stands.  One year we went away for one week at Thanksgiving, sailing through the British Virgin Islands with another family.  We made lifelong memories on that trip, but our daughter was benched for a week afterwards.  Other parents explained that you simply cannot do that.  Christmas basketball tournaments?  Don’t go visit both sides of the family, or another week will be spent warming the bench.

Throughout middle school and high school, the forced insertion of parents into their children’s lives has continued.  The most recent addition, touted by most schools as a fantastic step forward for all:  the dreaded Parent Portal.  Parents are now given electronic access to their children’s grade books, on a class by class basis.  Teachers are asked to keep online grades up to date, and parents are given login information to view those grades – homework, quizzes, tests, projects.

Theoretically, the Parent Portal is helpful.  It is much easier to see when things might be sliding in a class, so you can head that off before a final report card comes home with bad news.  But nothing is really that simple.  Ever heard of the Digital Footprint?  There is always a back door, where someone sees what you are doing.  Every time you login to that Parent Portal, it is recorded.

So imagine a case where you discover your child is not doing well in a class.  Guess what?  It is not just your child’s fault for not handing in homework, or forgetting to study for the quizzes.  It is now also YOUR fault for not checking the Parent Portal.

If that ain’t someone handing me the helicopter controls, I don’t know what is!


About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!

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