Saturday, January 24, 2009

"I'm There for You."

Helicopter parents get a bad rap for being overprotective. I can say this objectively because I have never had the privilege of joining their ranks. I've had a lot to juggle as a mom; maybe under different circumstances I might have hovered more. The degree of nurturing, caring, and fostering which helicopter offspring experience may look absurd to the outside world, but these promote self-confidence when children know they have a support system. I saw some mighty self-confident young people at the SAT test this morning, where I worked as a proctor.

When my son and oldest daughter took the test, I wished them well in the morning and they were on their way. Some of the kids I saw today received much more, and their quiet smiles showed the understanding that they were not alone. This was a 4-hour test on a drizzly Saturday morning, and several parents walked their students right up to the classroom door. One father even got special permission to help his son with accommodations due to a broken leg. Maybe the son could have hobbled in by himself and figured out how to keep his leg propped up, but I could tell he appreciated the extra care from his dad. We also had a group of seventh-graders taking the test, as part of the College Board Talent Search program. These students had mothers who waited at the door with them, and proudly arrived to pick them up with hugs and smiles the minute the test was finished. Though proctoring a test on the weekend might not have been the most exciting thing on my agenda, I learned about nurturing by watching the faces of these students. Sure, a balance between caring and empowering is always necessary, but a certain degree of doting is essential for kids to fully understand that they have our support.

Some parents have this figured out naturally, while others of us have to work at it.
While substitute teaching in a very nurturing classroom last year, I discovered an inspirational poster from Search Institute titled, "Fifty Ways to Show Kids You Care." Some of my favorites from this list were:
  • Make yourself available.
  • Celebrate their firsts and lasts, such as the first day of school. (Or, their first SAT test!)
  • Encourage them to think big.
How delightful it was to watch a few parents give these intangibles to their children and teenagers today. For the seventh graders who came, just having the gumption to show up with all the high school juniors takes a lot. One of the boys gave a very loud "Wooo-hooooooo!" as I announced the end of the test. His mom thanked me and told me they were going out for pizza. That boy knew a caring adult was available to celebrate his accomplishment of thinking big!

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