I feel comfortable asserting that I am NOT a helicopter parent. I believe in kids building autonomy, making (and learning) from their own mistakes, and all of that sort of thing. Furthermore, in case you haven’t noticed, I am far too lazy to be a helicopter parent. It just seems like it’s an awful lot of work. I can barely remember to get dressed in the morning and throw some food at my children. I’m supposed to shadow their every step, too? HARD. I can’t be bothered.
On the other hand, I do luuuuurve MAH BABIES and try to take an active interest in their lives. I do things like join committees and volunteer at school and launch into impassioned soliloquies in front of the dryer about the Endless Tragedy Of Orange Socks (thank you, Georgia clay, for making my life infinitely more rust-colored) in an effort to better connect with my offspring. Um, okay, technically that socks thing might not fall into that category, but you see my point.
Anyway, now that I’ve gone and JUSTIFIED how I’m all about not over-interfering like the big neurotic that I am, allow me to paint the scene:
Over the summer, the children ping-pong back and forth between here and their dad’s house so often that I suddenly realized that Chickadee hadn’t really had any playdates with her friends. We have a conversation about it that went something like the following.
Me: Hey, do you want to get together with Nightingale or Hawk or Swan or anyone?
Her: I dunno.
Me: You don’t know?
Me: Oooooo…kay…. Um. Well, you can have a friend over tomorrow if you like. How about Swan?
And then because I happen to be friends with Swan’s mom, I made the arrangements. (Shut up.) The girls had a fabulous time, and plans were discussed to meet next time at Swan’s house for a sleepover party for “all the girls.” Hooray!
Except, the invitation came, and the party date was during her next trip to her dad’s house. Boo. Chickadee looked at the invite, said “I can’t go, anyway,” and flounced off. I assured her that we’d find another time for them to get together. We ran into Swan and her mom at the ice cream place a few days later and Swan’s mom assured her we’d find another time to get together. Chickie seemed remarkably neutral about the entire thing.
I was perplexed.
Eventually I concluded that the upheaval of the summer brought with it enough times that she was unable to make plans or commit to an activity, that she was merely resolving not to want, as a survival mechanism. As much as that makes me want to curl up in the corner, a little bit, it’s a fairly reasonable response to an unreasonable situation, I guess.
Okay. So. All of that happened this summer, and I (stupidly) assumed that ONCE SCHOOL STARTED AGAIN (all hail school!) that things would return to normal, what with the REGULAR ROUTINE and the SEEING FRIENDS EVERY DAY and all of that. Yes. I’m ever the optimist. Or the rat who keeps pressing the level that gives an electric shock. Same thing.
So Chickadee’s been… ummm… a typical 10-year-old girl… which is to say that she is deliriously happy one minute and pissed off at the entire world the next. Nothing new there, right?
But last night at dinner we were eating and out of nowhere she says, “Swan had a party on Friday night. She didn’t invite me.”
Otto and I exchanged glances. We tried to dig for some more information, but she was back in that locked-down, I-don’t-care-anyway attitude I’ve come to dread. Was she sure it was a party? Yes, she was sure, she saw her giving out invitations and besides, Nightingale had it written on her calendar. Had they had a fight of some kind? Nope. Was she upset about it? No, it’s fine. Well, are they still friends? Of course, we’re friends, no big deal. Maybe it was an oversight, somehow? Well I see Swan every day, and she never invited me, so I don’t think so.
I stewed about it all evening. It just seemed… weird that she wouldn’t be invited.
In the end, I interfered, because I didn’t know how not to. I sent an email to the mom to tell her what was said and to ask if I’d missed a falling out or something. The whole thing made me incredibly anxious—I worried that I’d be seen as a coddler or, worse, that Chickadee would be viewed unfavorably—but I just couldn’t get my head around it. I was SURE it was a mistake, and whether she was admitting it or not, Chickadee was feeling bad.
There’s a happy ending, sort of; Chickadee was on the guest list and it’s not clear what happened, if anything, beyond maybe Swan thinking she’d already given her an invitation when she hadn’t. The other mom is a sweetheart and totally understood my position and was genuinely surprised and sorry about what had happened. (She says she wondered where we were!) So it looks like all will be resolved and everything will be fine.
She’s getting to an age where I wonder how long I can do this. Rather, how long I SHOULD do this. How old does my kid have to be before meddling in her business—no matter how noble my intentions—does her a disservice? I will tell her about this, later today, and she’ll almost certainly be completely relieved and happy to hear that she wasn’t excluded intentionally. But the day may come when I “report good news” of this sort and she is SIMPLY HORRIFIED that I butted in. Or—worse?—she’ll never be horrified, but one day I’ll realize that she’s an adult and I’m still micromanaging her playdates.
So, yeah. Not a helicopter. Still, a GPS I could attach to the nose of this thing would be really handy.