Thursday, May 15, 2008

Airport Mother vs. Helicopter Mom

It is May, and I am in the final days of driving Pablo to school, as he graduates in June. I have had the pleasure of driving him to school for 16 years. When he gets out of the car with his deep voice and his heavy backpack, I think of the three-year-old he was, "just yesterday" running into Pixie PreSchool to get his hands on the Playskool doctor's kit.

I have never complained about all the driving I've had to do over the years -- and it has been considerable-- because I learned early on that driving in the car is when your kids really talk to you. The most interesting things, deep thoughts, confessions and wonderings float up as you wait for a light to turn green.

When Pablo goes to college in August, I will become what my Mother was to me for most of her life: an airport Mother. How I recall seeing my Mother's anticipatory face, wandering through the baggage claim, looking for me, and the happy light in her eyes when she saw me. "Yoo hoo!" she'd call. Her daughter was home.

The airport Mother is always happy to go to the airport to pick up her "child" and always takes her "child" back to the airport when he must leave to go back to his own life.

Whereas, the helicopter Mom is a somewhat derogatory term, used by college administrators, to describe a mother who sends her child to college, but hovers over him the whole time, ready to swoop down and fix his problems or whisk him away at the slightest call. Or sometimes, even uninvited.

My older brother, Buzz, describes raising children with an analogy to the solar system. You are the earth and your child is your moon, orbiting around you for 18 beautiful years. Then, the child breaks free, like moons do, and drifts out of your gravitational pull, to orbit around a different planet. Occasionally, your orbits intersect and you fly together for awhile, but then, again, off he goes. You are in the same solar system, but in different orbits.

It is amazing: You will spend more time without your children than you ever spent with them! You really only have the fulltime pleasure of your children for the 18 years they live at home.

You've all heard some of your friends or acquaintances say, in a pained tone, "Oh gee...I have to go see my Mother," anticipating a draining, needy Mother.

I want to be the kind of Mother whose child says, "I'm going home to see my Mother!" The welcoming, approving, supportive, fun Mother. The home where the bed is made up, the soup bubbling on the stove, the car keys dangling so they can go out and see their friends.

Planet Mother. Because it's a rough solar system out there.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

Oh, you've hit the nail on the head once again. I learned very early on that my preschoolers will give me valuable tidbits of info once intoxicated by the hum of the car....from which kids misbehaved in school, to activities, to their dreams....thanks again for reminding me of what's important!

I hope to be one of the moms my kids love to come home to...I love my mom dearly, but she was a helicopter mom - hence, why I went to school 2700 miles away. But it was good for us both!