Melissa Schmalenberger, Published January 12 2014
Ms. Simplicity: I've moved from helecopter parent to drone pilotI don’t know when it happened. There is no magic date I circled on the calendar that I planned and practiced for. There is no book called “What To Expect When Your Child Becomes An Adult.” One day I was busy going to kids’ activities, making sure my kids ate a balanced diet and brushed their teeth twice a day, and the next thing I know they don’t “need” me.
I never considered myself a helicopter mom, the mom who was always hovering ready to step in and take control at a moment’s notice. But I guess I really was. I was room mom, PTA president. Heck, I even coached T-ball (that was funny) and stepped in to coach a game of soccer (that was funnier.) I have played medic and triage nurse on the football field and mental health counselor and intuitive mom in the middle of the night. These are all roles I have gratefully filled. Always quick to give advice and to make a joke to ease the pain, I simply was always there.
But then it happened. The oldest turned 18 and moved out of state for college. The middle child turned 18 with eyes of also moving out of state for school. I encouraged them to go for the college of their dreams while secretly praying that they live just across the bridge in Minnesota. The day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour, interaction is gone. I don’t need to give them a ride in the car so the conversations in the car are gone. A tough college and work schedule leaves little time for long hours on Skype.
Now I am more like a drone pilot, watching from afar, ready to strike when needed. I thought I was ready to have adult children. But I wasn’t. I miss buying Halloween costumes and sitting in the car pool lane at school. And I was good at buying Halloween costumes. Now I am relegated to getting glimpses of their lives through postings on Facebook.
But this is the deal, they want to figure it out on their own. They want to figure out how to pay their bills. They want to figure out how to make their food budget last. What? They don’t need me? I feel like I have been benched in a basketball game when I was the star player. However, I still need to stay in shape and be ready to be called in at a moment’s notice. I still have to stay mentally sharp all while knowing when I am crossing boundaries by offering too much guidance.
I am so grateful that my kids don’t need me in the traditional sense. I know that I am one of the parents who is lucky to be drone pilot. I have friends who are still supporting their kids who are in their early 30s for various mental and physical health reasons. But could my kids just call me in the game a time or two knowing that they don’t need me, but that I still like to play? Could I start a support group of other drone parents called helicopter parents in recovery? The meetings would go something like this, “Hello my name is Melissa and I like to bake eight dozen cookies for a Halloween party.”
So maybe I need to write the book on “What To Expect When Your Child Becomes An Adult.” It will just have one chapter in it called, “Sit Back and Watch and Keep Your Opinion to Yourself.” But this sitting on my hands with my mouth shut is hard.
Maybe I just need to look at my parents for inspiration. I remember asking them questions as an adult and they never really answered me, simply always pointing me in the direction to the right answer.
Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.