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July 27, 2008


We used to call them Smother Mothers. My friends and I felt sorry for those who had them. Now that I'm a teacher, I call them Helicopter parents, and I wish they would hover somewhere else!

Funny - my (now 14-year-old) sons trip to summer camp last year was a nightmare as he called me every evening, upset. It took me ages to get through to someone at the camp who was able to deal with the issue directly. My boy was in a cabin with four other boys who didn't like him (cultural differences - I'm not allocating blame) and with the odds in their favour, started bullying. Toothpaste in his ear in the middle of the night, that sort of stupid thing.

Ugly. Typical boys to an extent. But you know, this is camp where he's supposed to have fun. Fighting with the other kids? Not what I pay for.

His attempts to get an adult involved failed. I phoned to say, this is a kid who goes to camp every year, who goes to a boarding school, he knows what being away is like. And he's scared now.

And I was treated as overbearing and involving myself in something that had nothing to do with me. "There is no problem" while I have a kid calling me saying "I don't want to be here any more, come get me."

So while I hate the whole smothering-mothering and helicopter parents concept ... while I really dislike the amount of abuse the journalist took for allowing her 9-year-old to get on the subway ... while I laugh at the thought of watching my son at camp on webcam ....

While I do all that, I'm also aware that "you are smothering" has become a weapon and means that parents should not complain (much like Americans in restaurants) and de facto won't be taken seriously.

Sylvia, I have to agree - just because there are parents out there who are overinvolved, doesn't mean that a parent should never interfere. But these people make it harder for those of us who aren't hyper to be taken seriously. There's a big difference between a parent calling up because they haven't heard from their kid in 3 days and a parent calling because their normally independent child has been begging to come home. It's a shame your camp director couldn't tell the difference!

Wow, what an eye opening article. I remember my parents dropping me off at camp doing cartwheels on their way back to the car. And I would LOVE to send my kids to flute camp for a week! (none of them play the flute but I'll send them anyway)

I must be a bad mother. A week away from my kids with no contact whatsoever sounds like nirvana!!

We are so on the same wavelength. I think all the parents in that article need psychiatric help--their kids are sure going to.

I'd happily send my kid away to camp for a week with no contact, but NO, Boy Scout camp in my son's troop has a parent night in the middle of the week - where we are all STRONGLY encouraged to attend. It just leads to begging - for more money, different food, stay for campfire, etc, etc. On my part it would work much better to have NO contact for a week.

Camp is definitely a highlight of the year for parent and child in this house.
Re-entry syndrome... I'll be stealing that phrase. :-)

I didn't think twice while my 15 year old daughter was at camp last week. She had a great time and loved the independence. Of course it took all of about 15 minutes with me and my husband for her to call us "annoying" and claim that we didn't care about her.

That NYTimes article did hit close to home. But, I have to point out that most of those camps are much longer in duration than a week. My son (12 going on 40) just got home from a wonderful camp in the Adirondacks. He went for 4 weeks last summer and 4 weeks this summer, and he wants to go for the full season next year, which we MAY be able to afford. Why consider it? Because it is an excellent program. That commenter who had to take action for her son getting bullied in his cabin almost brought tears to my eyes. One of the reasons my boy loves his camp is that such behavior would NEVER be tolerated there. In fact, when he came home last year he said, "Mom, you were wrong." (Again? I thought.) "About what?" I asked. "You said there were bullies everywhere, and there we're any bullies there." That's worth a million, so if you know your kid is safe and taken care of, you don't need to hover.

I have always loved dropping my kids off at camp. And before it was camp, when they were just 6 or 7, it was 2 weeks at the Grandparents' up in Connecticut - 6 hours away. They like the break from me, me from them. And then they went to their own camps (boy/girl twins, sometimes ended up together, sometimes separate) and they love being their OWN person.

Enjoy your week, and good luck on the re-entry thing!

What's scary is what happens to the children of these "helicopter parents" when they grow up.
There was someone I worked with who had a disagreement with another person in our office, and her dad called our manager and asked him to take care of the problem by reprimanding the other employee.
Nothing like having your daddy fight your battles for you when you're 25.

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