- To talk.
- To crack the eggs into the batter. (Pancakes are not supposed to be crunchy.)
- Sarcasm. I just love it when the kids do as I do, not as I say…
- To play games on my cell phone.
- To read. (If you’ve ever seen a billboard in the state of Missouri, you’re with me on this one.)
- To say please. (See When Good Words Go Bad.)
- To expect that meals will be prepared for them. Everyday.
- The words ‘mine,’ ‘no,’ ‘jiggly,’ and ‘bottom.’
- To tell knock-knock jokes. (And expect me to laugh.)
- To spell. (It’s total b-u-l-l-s-h-i-t that my husband I no longer have a covert means of communication.)
- To listen to the radio. (Thankyouverymuch, Katy Perry, for teaching my seven-year old what a menage-a-trois is.)
- How to tell time. (I sometimes* ache for the days I could say “It’s bedtime!” at 5:30.)
- To use the word ‘really’ as a question.
- To use the DVR. (I now have approximately 97 hours of Phineas & Ferb available for my viewing pleasure.)
- That there is no such thing as a stupid question. (As it turns out, there is.)
We all know a Helicopter Parent when we see one. They’re the Moms and Dads obsessively bug spraying, sun-blocking, or hat-n-gloving their kids while shouting at them not to climb too high, swim too far out, or touch anything in the bathroom. However much we may judge these parents, (even when we see them in the mirror) we feel a sense of satisfaction being able to put a name to their neurosis. They are Helicopter Parents and we know this because a doctor and a parenting guru (Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay) coined this useful term in 1990. Since then, the expression has been firmly entrenched in our vocabulary.
As far as I’m concerned, Helicopter Parenting is the best kind of term – descriptive, memorable, fitting, and kind of funny. But it’s limited. It only describes one parenting style. And since most of us employ multiple parenting methods throughout the years, perhaps even throughout the day, I feel the list of parenting metaphors can and should be expanded. So, though I am neither a doctor nor a parenting guru, I’ve taken a crack at it myself.
See if you can identify your parenting style in the list below. Or tell me if you know of one I missed. I’d love to hear which kind of parent you are because hearing about other parents not being perfect makes me feel better about being so alarmingly far from it myself. Plus, I love comments on my blog. Plus, I’m just generally nosy.
So, Are You a…
Tandem Bicycle Parent: These parents attempt to get their children involved in the parenting process with questions like, “What do you think your punishment should be?” and “How much do you think you should get for allowance?” Much like the tandem bicycle itself, this kind of parenting sounds like it would be fun, but isn’t. If you choose to parent this way, keep in mind that although the tandem bike may have two sets of pedals, only one person can steer it.
Carnival Cruise Parent: These parents want to have fun! They either can’t find a babysitter or feel too guilty to leave the kids at home, so they bring them along wherever they go. The parents continue to behave exactly as they would if their children were not there, stopping occasionally to feed and briefly converse with their offspring – usually uttering the words, “Not now,” and “When I’m ready to go.”
Rickshaw Parent (also known as Field Plow and Dog Sled Parents): These parents like to take it easy. They are perfectly comfortable to sit back and direct their children from afar. They tell their kids to take out the trash, rake the leaves, and make dinner – all from the comfort of the couch. This kind of parenting works best under a fear-based regime and only until the children grow weary and stage the inevitable coup.
Express Train Parent: These parents are in a big hurry all the time. Their constant refrain is, “Let’s go! C’mon! Let’s go!” They get things done. Lots of things. They never sit still. They never chill out. They are always in forward motion. Their children often resort to lollygagging in a passive-aggressive form of protest, often causing the Express Train Parent to go “off the rails.”
Ice Cream Truck Parent: Almost everyone is guilty of being one of these parents at least once in a while. Ice Cream Truck parents get their child to do what they want them to do by promising them a sweet treat if they comply. Effective. To be used sparingly. (Admission: My daughter will do almost anything for a Hershey’s Kiss, so in my house this technique is grossly overused.)
Limousine Parent: These parents want to make sure their kids arrive in style. They want it known that their children are special and deserve to stand out. Limousine parents needn’t know the direction they are going, because they’ve hired someone to know for them. They only need to pony up the dough and sit back and enjoy the ride. Be aware: Kids parented in this way may become driven by a lavish lifestyle, but not know how to get there on their own.
Motorcycle Side Car Parent: These parents have a wild side. They like their adrenaline rush and want their kids to like it too. They travel in the fast lane and take the kids along as they bob and weave their way on down the road. These parents love high speeds and high drama. Note: This can also work in reverse, where the child drives and the parent goes along for the ride. Either way, best to buckle up. It’s usually a bumpy ride.
Southwest Airlines Parent: These parents are on a budget and know how to have a good time. So what if they’re not super-organized? Who cares if occasionally they take off without all of their passengers? They are fun! They are wild. They compose funny raps and make wry, witty puns about safety and cleanliness. They may not be the most refined parents around, but they get the job done and do it with a smile.
VW Bug Parenting: These parents don’t believe personal space; they like to be super-close to their kids.
EuroRail Parent (aka, Tour Bus Parent): These parents want their kids to see it all, do it all, and experience it all. They take their children from museums to galleries to monuments (whether they like it or not). These parents have a constant talk-track going about what they are seeing and why it will improve their kids lives. Note: Kids generally absorb only 5 – 7% of this information. Even less when they have access to an iPhone or a Nintendo DS.
Bulldozer Parenting: These parents know where they want their children to go in life and they will flatten anyone who gets in their way (including the children themselves). Best to get out of the way when you see a Bulldozer parent if at all possible.
Slow-Boat-to-China Parents (aka, River Boat and Barge Parenting): These parents believe that kids grow up too darn fast these days. In many ways, they are the opposite of the Express Train parents. They believe that all good things come to those who wait and that homemade fun is the best kind of fun. Their children don’t watch TV, eat microwave meals, or play with electronic/tech based toys.
Private Jet Parents (aka, Maybach Parenting): These parents want their kid to know that they have a lot of money and that they aren’t afraid to spend it.
Four-Wheeler Parents: These parents are looking to recreate the kind of fun they remember having when they were kids. Often times, they are remembering things from when they were an older child. But in their zeal, Four Wheeler parents will forget this and attempt to relive all their childhood memories when junior is about five years too young. You see them with their one year olds at DoraLive! Or off for a hunting trip before the kid can even read. Or with their American Girl whose face has been colored on with a sharpie. (Note: A mutation of this kind of parent is the GoKart Parent, which is the deep-fried version of the Four Wheel Parent. They function the same way, but are frequently drawn to guns, roadside fireworks, and yes, GoKarts.)
Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet Parents: The worst kind of parents. These people have kids, but no one ever actually sees them parenting anybody.
I’d be lying if I said I always tell my children the truth. And while I’m sure it doesn’t make me a lock for Mother-of-the-Year, (that ship undoubtedly sailed the morning I served fruit rollups for breakfast) I don’t think it makes me unfit either. The truth is that telling a few well-intentioned white lies can actually be a fairly effective parenting strategy. And to be honest, sometimes it just gets me through the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging inventing vast networks of lies that you need a spreadsheet to keep track of. But our kids don’t need to know everything. Nor can they handle everything. Obviously, you adjust what you choose to share with your kids as they get older and more mature. My kids are 7 and 10, and by this point I’d say 99.9% of the time, I tell my children the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They both know where babies come from. They both know that nobody lives forever. And they both know Mommy’s hair doesn’t necessarily grow out of her head this color.
The lie one chooses to tell, ultimately depends on one’s motivation. More often not, we fib to either keep our kids safe (“If you go outside with wet hair, you will catch cold,”) or to simplify a complicated situation (“The mechanical horsey is broken,” when you have one quarter but two children). Below are some of the various lies, half-truths, fabrications, and otherwise un-true things I have told my children at some point during their relatively short lives. Sadly, I can no longer get away with most of these.
I have lied in the best interests of my children:
- The car engine won’t turn on until your seatbelt is buckled.
- Eating spinach will give you big muscles.
- College is mandatory by law.
- You’ll love this new kind of chicken (otherwise knows as Tilapia).
I have lied to save my children’s feelings:
- Yours was the best pinch pot in the whole class.
- The shot will only hurt for a second.
- That bunny in the road is just sleeping.
- That is a hilarious knock-knock joke.
Then, there are the lies I’ve told for completely and utterly self-serving reasons.
- Only one Reeses peanut butter cup comes in a pack.
- Santa won’t come until you’re asleep.
- We’re out of batteries.
- Mommy and Daddy are taking a nap.
Of course, there are the societal and seasonal lies (think: holiday friends and dental darlings). These are things we tell our kids in the spirit of preserving their innocence and creating a sense of magic. The adult world is appallingly un-magical and since they have the rest of their lives to live in it, I feel no guilt whatsoever in inventing a bit of wonder and joy while they are young enough to believe. Besides, these lies have an internal expiration date (usually between six and ten, depending on older siblings and know-it-all classmates). I believe these are victimless lies and very rarely do they cause a child to feel betrayed when the truth eventually comes out. In fact, most kids play along long after they’ve stopped believing because they enjoy the charade so much.
Undoubtedly, there are some parents out there who never, ever tell their kids even the smallest of fibs. (They are probably the same people who use cloth diapers, eat only organic foods, and drive electric cars.) If you are one of these parents, then good for you. I admire your resolve, your integrity, and your discipline. But for the less virtuous among us, there are some instances when stretching the truth – or circumventing it entirely -can sure come in handy. Believe me. (Or maybe not, given what I’ve just confessed.)