Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why I'm ok being a "helicopter" parent.

When I was in junior high and high school I use to play tennis with a friend of ours. He was significantly older than me but my parents knew his parents. My mom also did 12 mile runs with him when she was training for marathons.  So, he was definitely trusted and my parents didn't mind that we would often play at other courts away from them.  

Years later when I came home from college his name came up. I asked my mom where/how he was. She hesitated and explained that he was in jail for child molestation. I felt like I had been sucker punched and a lot of things made sense all of a sudden.  

This man was always kind to me and sometimes made jokes about sexually related things...ok, kinda often. But he was a "player" and was friends with other good-looking young men at our club who would of course have the same type of talk. I felt like I was "one of the guys" when our conversations turned to stuff that happened on dates, etc. He also liked to bet when we played. If I won I got anything I wanted, which was always something along the lines of the latest Guess jean jacket. If he won he got to see my boobs or something "stupid" like that.  Mind you, that now it all makes sense. Back then I thought it was stupid because he never came close to beating me.  I never worried or I never really thought it through. Sex at that time was such a distant thought, a vague notion of what I'd do someday. All I really thought about was an awesome Guess jacket that I'd strut around at school. I don't ever recall him saying our conversations were to remain private but I also don't recall talking to my parents about it.  He also gave me tips on what to expect from guys later on so I felt like he was looking out for me and sort of a mentor.  The thought repulses me today. 

When my mom first told me what happened the conversation didn't go further than the details of how and when he was arrested. That was it. I felt she was a bit uncomfortable with the subject, and a little bit fearful.  But I was waiting for her to ask me if anything had ever happened to me. She never did. And to be honest it made me angry.  Didn't she want to know?  Or was she too weak to know and really didn't want the truth. That made me angrier.  I hate weak women.

It took me years to finally ask her why she never asked me that one question.  And her answer shocked me. She said "Because everyone knew how invested your father was in your life.  Everyone knew of your father's temper. Everyone knew your father watched you like a hawk. So I knew no one would ever dare touch you or harm you."  It was true. My father was very involved in my life...too involved for my teenage taste. By today's standards he would be called a "helicopter parent". But he didn't really hover as much as watch carefully from a distance. I guess everyone saw his watchful eye. 

With my mother's response and knowing how much time and how close I was to a child molester I have a new perspective on the kind of parent I want to be.  I want to be like my father....in some ways.  I want to be super involved in my children's lives. I'm ok with being called a helicopter parent. I'm ok with people saying I have a temper. In fact I'm ok with people thinking I can be a little scary. And I definitely want others to know of the kind of parent I am because I also want my girls to know that I'll protect them come hell or high water. Bottom line I knew that about my dad and maybe it was my dad's protection that gave me the confidence to behave in a way that never let that man cross the line.


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