Helicopter parent or slacker dad?

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “helicopter parent” was coined in 1989. Helicopter parents demonstrate an overprotective or excessive interest in the lives of their children. No one wants to be a helicopter parent. If you doubt that, go to the next PTA meeting, and ask one of the parents if they think they are a helicopter parent.

Then run.  

The question is: what constitutes overprotective or excessive? Some people are fortunate enough to have a toddler to whom they can give a box of blocks, and the little guy will happily entertain himself for hours. Others have toddlers that will ignore the blocks and go on a quest for something more dangerous. My son was the latter type.  

We did put child-proof cabinet latches on all of the kitchen cabinets. It took me several hours to put them on. It took him several minutes to figure out how they worked. I thought about writing to the manufacturer about their defective product, but was too afraid they would think I was the one thing worse than a helicopter dad. They might think I was a slacker dad.  

He was the child you could not turn your back on for a moment. Once, he wandered out of the kitchen while I was putting away the last dishes from the dishwasher. I closed the cabinet door and walked into the hallway, where he was coming out of the bathroom with a bottle of hand sanitizer. He had unscrewed the lid and was saying, “Yuck!”  

I grabbed the bottle in a panic and asked, “Did you drink this?”  

His face scrunched up as he started to cry.

“I’m not mad. I’m not mad,” I repeated, trying to keep him calm.  

I picked him up and went to the phone to dial 1-800-222-1222. If you don’t know it by heart, that’s the number for poison control.   

“What brand of hand sanitizer is it?” asked the expert.  

I gave her the name.  

“How much did he drink?” she asked.

I looked at the bottle. “Maybe an ounce or two,” I said.  

“It should be fine,” she said. “If he drank more, it could be dangerous, but the worst that will happen is he might seem a little intoxicated.”  

“It’s not even noon yet,” I sighed.  

“It is somewhere,” she said with a chuckle.  

It took a moment to figure out that she was making a joke about drinking before noon. I was just wondering how I was going to keep him safe until nap time.  

What is overprotective or excessive? Before I had children, I could have told you. Now, I’m not so sure. If you see someone you think might be a slacker dad, consider that he might have one of those children who is satisfied with a box of blocks. If you see someone who might be a helicopter parent, he might simply be doing his best to keep the kids alive until nap time.  

(Note: If your child consumes hand sanitizer, call poison control immediately. Some sanitizers are extremely toxic.)

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 7, Issue 3, Posted 9:40 AM, 02.03.2015