Helicopter-Crash Parenting

Praise the Lord for Caller ID and Voice Mail, which now spares us from the calls which eat our brains. As soon as I heard about the college admissions scandal, I remembered this:

“Oh God, it’s her again, isn’t it?”

“Yep. I’m not answering her anymore. I can’t help her. You can’t help her. No one can help her. Let it go to Voicemail.” This was the exchange between the two utterly delightful, professional, and helpful women who ran the Front Office on my first High School campus.

Having half a minute, I’d wandered out of my office and found them thus discussing the parent we’ll call Baseball Mom from here on. I knew these women to be consummate professionals so I had to ask what in the wide, wide world of sports had them slumped over their desks at sight of a phone number?

At the end of the school year, schools have try-outs for the teams forming for the following year. The greatest majority of complaining phone calls afterward come, in my experience and I kid you not, from Cheerleader moms. In this particular district, Parents had the right to review all the information and score sheets which resulted in a student not making the team; due to privacy laws, all those sheets and information must be redacted for Parent review – which is where we Secretaries came in. On a large campus, in a large district, there are Procedures, in my experience followed carefully for fairness because it’s the right thing, and especially because everyone dreads the aftershocks of try-outs: disappointed Parents making nasty phone calls, redacting score sheets, meetings for which we didn’t have time. Every year, this gets a little worse.

Baseball Mom’s son, an in-coming Sophomore, didn’t make the cut. He’d played baseball all his life, he’d held a baseball bat as soon as he could sit up! He’d played league baseball since he could walk! He’d played in Elementary and Middle Schools! He was on the 9th grade campus and team, and his life-long ambition had been to play baseball, letter in baseball for this High School! There was no way he failed to make the team!

Except…. Maybe Baseball Mom didn’t realize that every year the pool of competitors for spots on the JV and Varsity teams grew larger. Her son may indeed be an awesome player, but he just tried out for a team on a campus with 4,000 students, not all of whom play baseball of course, but the field from which Coaches choose grows exponentially with every step up in campus.

She’d gone through the Coaches, the Assistant Principal over Athletics, The Principal, Administration, and finally, the Superintendent simply kicked it back to the Campus, supporting (uncharacteristically) the decision made there. She’d thus spent the day calling the Coaches and Principals, who are busy people, so after leaving them messages she’d simply begun calling and forwarding out to the Front Office, the Principal’s Secretary, anyone who would answer their phone. The term, Harassment, comes to mind.

“So…. you are telling me that I have to tell my son he’s not playing baseball next year? He’s walking around the house crying and I don’t know what to do!” This was the last thing Baseball Mom said to our Receptionist on the last call she’d been willing to answer.

And so the helicopter crash-landed, and I sincerely do hope both Pilot/Parent and Passenger/Student made it out ok. We never knew what she told her son; hopefully, whatever happened next was more enlightening than embittering. He didn’t play baseball that year, but he could try out again the following year. His disappointment was quite possibly temporary.

One of the hardest lessons any of us learns is that someone will almost always be better than we are at some particular thing. Teaching our children how to gracefully handle that reality is a gift beyond price parents can freely give their children but, it can’t be done from a hovering position. It’s a lesson taught with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

One thought on “Helicopter-Crash Parenting

  1. What a timely story. Learning from failure is a bitter pill to swallow, but my parents had no trouble letting me swallow it. I know a couple who’ve pinned their hopes on their one son who is good at baseball in his small school district. I often wonder what’s going to happen when he gets to a place where there is real competition. Your story here may turn out to be his future story, for all I know.

    Liked by 1 person

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