Monday, August 27, 2012

Contemplative parenting: watching my inner control freak

The Washington Post posted an op-ed Friday by Barry Glassner and Morton Schapiro on ways to rein in helicopter parents on college campuses. Rather than tell the parents to step back and give their children some space, they suggest channeling parental energies into efforts more consonant with the college's mission and coaching parents on how to tell their children, "Good luck with that!" when the child seems to leans too heavily on parental resources for problem solving.

The message is don't be (as Crash would say) "that parent" or as Glassner and Schapiro even more bluntly put it: a "counterproductive, infantilizing, control freak." Crash (and The Boy) have had little need of parental hovercrafts for a long time now. They learned to do their own laundry while I was on my 30-day retreat, and have managed their own academic schedules (and study habits) for years. Math Man and I can and should take some credit for setting up the conditions that led to their growth, but in part we have been blessed with kids who have had few problems that they couldn't manage to untangle on their own — and for this I'm grateful.

Crash managed to apply for college, select one, and organize himself to go pretty much on his own (well, we wrote a lot of checks and read drafts of some, though not all, of the various essays he wrote along the way, but "we" did not apply to college). So why on earth did I find myself within 5 minutes of arriving at Wonderful Jesuit University (henceforth WJU) biting my tongue to keep from offering advice on which side of the street to walk on from parking garage to dorm?

The notion that contemplation is something that happens quietly sitting on a cushion in a zendo (or in my case, a seiza bench in my orationis angulus) is a fine one, but for me, at least, contemplation doesn't end when I stand up. It is in part the challenge of being able to stand in the moment, noticing the feelings, but not letting them take over. It's emotional weather watching.

I spent much of the weekend at WJU contemplatively practicing. There was a lot of weather to practice with.


  1. I try very hard to let my kids make their own mistakes, and that really goes against my nature as a certified (certifiable?) Control Freak.
    It gets balanced out by my laziness and also my sense of "this is NOT my job"--I have been to school; I have written my book reports/college essays (depending on age of child).
    It's much more gratifying to watch my child excel because of HIS OWN hard work.
    At 20, Big Brother has decided (as has his girlfriend) that I am good for cooking advice. My hope is that this keeps the door open so that when advice is needed in other, non-culinary matters, he feels free to ask.

  2. I am trying hard to not be over-the-top helicopter stepmother, as well as trying hard not to be over-the-top-trying-to-get-helicopter-father to stop that. *sigh*

    Blessings on you all!

  3. May Wisdom continue to prompt you to bite your tongue. Good luck