Droning On

Daughter 1: Mum, will you pack for me – you don’t have to choose my clothes, just pack them?
Me: Why?
Her: Because you’re good at it.

No, I said.

So she packed, as well as tidied her room, painted her desk white, walked into town to get toiletries and get Turkish lira, did an hour’s Taekwon-Do training and cooked dinner for 6 of us. She’s off to Turkey today and I won’t see her for two weeks. So I spent the whole of yesterday feeling guilty. Guilty that I’d said no to packing her suitcase. Guilty for not remembering that she needed foreign money. Guilty for moaning at her about painting her desk and guilty about having asked her to cook dinner. Was she stressed and anxious about any of this? No. She was happy and excited about her holiday and by doing all those things she felt independent and secure. I did the right thing – I think – but I spent the whole day questioning myself.

You see, as I talked about in my blog: Bonsai Parenting, we are doing far too much ‘helicopter parenting’, where we hover over our children like an irritating mosquito, swooping in if our child needs rescuing. Keeping a close eye on proceedings, ready to throw the rope down for them to grab hold of and get taken back to the safety of the home at the slightest whiff of potential conflict or danger.

However, I would even take it a step further in my analogy of how we’re bringing up our kids. Modern parenting is more like drone parenting: even more intrusive, with its ability to get in closer and to gather the necessary information required to control our children.

‘Drones provide troops parents with a 24-hour “eye in the sky”, seven days a week. Each aircraft can stay aloft for up to 17 hours at a time, loitering over an area and sending back real-time imagery of activities on the ground. Although drones are unmanned, they are not unpiloted – trained crew parents at base steer the craft, analyse the images which the cameras send back and act on what they see.’

Information from teachers, tutors and sports coaches, to name but three. Parents are incessantly requiring feedback on their offspring, to use to remain firmly involved at every decision making process. Drones can spy, and as parents we are encouraged to spy on our kids: check their internet activity, read their texts, always be on the lookout for clues to them entering the dark side, from where we will immediately rescue them.

We’ll rescue them by droning on to teachers when our child is even slightly struggling. Droning on at the side of the pitch, telling a child how to play a game that the parent probably knows little about. This isn’t just words of support, this is telling them what to do and even worse, telling them what they should have done. This is apparently one of the main reasons kids, particularly girls give up sport in their droves as they approach the teenage years – they are embarrassed and made to feel even more self conscious by well meaning drones.

Drones, unlike helicopters, can swoop right in. They are on the PTA, on the school trips, on the school reading rota, they are constantly at school. Then the next thing they know they are traipsing around university open days where frustrated deans are prising their child away from them and telling them to go and do something else for a couple of hours. They are writing the personal statement, sorting out their child’s work experience and attending their interviews with them.

Drones are doing everything they can to prevent risk: risk of injury, risk of failure and risk of boredom. But this well meaning drone parenting is creating children who are more likely to develop low self-worth, who are stressed and anxious and who are more likely to engage in risky behaviour, such as binge drinking.

I’m not the parent who drones on at the side of the pitch – I leave that to the coaches. Nor am I the parent drone, hovering in the school. But I am a drone. I’ve realised that I have spent the past few months asking one of my daughters if she is ok. She became a little more withdrawn than usual and I worried. I worried that she had lost her spark and so I asked her: what’s wrong? Nothing, came her reply. But I asked again and over the months again and again: are you sure?  No wonder she withdrew. She’s doing well at school, she has good friends, but I still worried too much. When parents drone on, anxiously asking: are you ok? they can make the child anxious because they sense that we’re worried and, of course, it can make them pull away. I am over-analysing, when I should be giving her the space to breathe.

The other time that I drone on is about chores. That constant: can you do this? Have you done that? I asked you to tidy up and so on, doesn’t teach them to notice for themselves when things need doing. I repeat myself too frequently. I am not raising robots, I am bringing up independent human beings, whom I want to be self-aware.

Parent drones are well meaning, because not being a drone can feel detached and alienating and, as I said at the beginning of this post, hands off parenting can make you feel extremely guilty. Ironically, in order to develop our children’s confidence, we need to develop our own. Do you think our own parents ever felt guilty when they told us to, “go and play”? No, because they weren’t surrounded by other parents who were hovering over their offspring and they weren’t being constantly fed horror stories in the media about paedophiles who lurk on every corner. They don’t. But they do exist. They exist in places where you cannot always be: it could be your child’s friend’s dad, or a family member. All we can do is to develop our children’s confidence and self esteem; let go and trust.

So next time I’m sick of my own voice droning on I might just shut up and see what happens. I might actually be pleasantly surprised.

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19 thoughts on “Droning On”

  1. Bloody hell, Alison. All the girl wanted you to do was help her and you left her to it. And then you made her clean her room AND cook. GOOD ON YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I always remember Ricky Gervais saying he’d never have kids because they’re all take, take, take!
    Now, get the other kids to bring you that bottle of red and your slippers. Put those feet up – that’s what we have kids for, isn’t it? x

  2. Alison I sat down to read your post after saying goodbye to my teenage daughter as she headed off to catch a bus to meet some friends for a girls day out. My last vision of her was her raising her eyes skyward and saying “Yes Mum” in that exasperated fashion you will probably be familiar with as I told her to take care, text me and scream if someone tried to grab her! I am not controlling but I do worry…probably too much. She is wise, careful and fiercely independent and to grow up she needs to learn how to live without me. Thanks for your insightful post. #BloggerClubUK

    1. I am SO familiar with that look! It’s easy to get into a cycle of worry. I find that I have to mentally detach myself from their situation and get on with my life – which feels so strange when we’ve spent so many years so closely involved with them. But we’ve given them the roots and the wings – I love that quote. Thank you for your comments.

  3. I’ve always felt that the biggest key to happiness and getting where you want o be in life is simply by closing your mouth more often. Raising strong, independent kids is harder and harder nowadays, but like you, I’m determined to try #brilliantblogposts

    1. Yes, I’m definitely going to try not to keep asking my daughter if she’s ok. I think we just get paranoid as parents, with all the talk of teenage depression and so on. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Well your daughter sounds awesome so you are doing something right ! Interesting how parenting has changed so much .. The family unit is so compact these days , I think we spend much more time together than in the past , perhaps not for better ! #brillblogposts

    1. That’s a very interesting point you make about the family being more compact, I guess many families are. I feel mine are spread out a lot of the time and I need a spreadsheet to remember where they all are! Thank you for commenting.

  5. Fab post hun! I have to say I really try not to be a drone but bloody hell sometimes it is so hard not to be. But recently I have been pushing back to make my little girl do as much as she can as possible because quite frankly I don’t want to be picking up after her when she is 30! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx

    1. Yes good idea! Sometimes I’m so sick of the sound of my own voice and I ask myself, why keep on? Thank you for your comments X

  6. Love this!
    I’m defo a Drone parents – but my kids need it, they are 5 & 2… Not sure I’ll ever be able to pull myself away from them and let them get on with it.
    eeeek! So much to learn about this Muming lark.

  7. Love this!
    I’m defo a Drone parents -but my kids need it, they are 5 & 2… Not sure I’ll ever be able to pull myself away from them and let them get on with it.
    eeeek! So much to learn about this Muming lark.

    1. Oh god yes, we all drone on and they do need it when they are younger. This ‘muming lark’ is definitely work in progress for me! Thank you for commenting.

  8. It sounds like your daughter has a really strong independence which is great. I used to love doing all of that sort of thing myself – I felt really grown up. She was probably just trying her luck with the packing; It’s always worth a shot getting Mum to do the boring bit 😉

    A great post and even though my daughter is only 18 months old this is something I already think about. Right now it’s just lurking near her incase she falls in the garden but it’s a slippery slope as she gets older…


    1. Thank you for your comments and you are so right about her just wanting me to do the boring bit! It is a slippery slope and one that doesn’t get less slippery as they get older!

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