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Manual for the helicopter mom


When you are a new mother, there are helpful manuals galore, full of tips and dos and don'ts, to guide you through those early steep-learning-curve years. Any time you worry, or ask yourself at what age should my child be doing x, y, or z, you can check in a book (or, these days, on the internet). 

Even during those slightly disturbing years when your child morphs into a teenager, there is advice aplenty on how to handle things. About what to say and what not to say.
And when your child has grown and flown and - oh, maternal joy of joys - returned to the nest as a fully fledged working adult. . . where are the manuals for handling this, pray? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. You are on your own here.
Cards on the table, first.

I am unconditionally thrilled to bits to have my two children back in India, after their university studies in the UK. Those years of seeing them off at the airport, England bound, trying not to cry in too embarrassing a manner are over, thank the good Lord above.

Is it horribly insensitive of me to say that I am even grateful to the European recession, which meant they both came back to look for work in still economically healthy India?

And is it crass to say 'Thank God' for the ludicrous Delhi real-estate market, which means that they have little option but to live at home?

All of which means that we now wave our children off to work rather than school, as they zoom out in the mornings, grabbed mug of coffee in one hand, car keys in the other.

Having working, gainfully-employed young adults at home, and how to handle the changed dynamics, is our new parental learning curve. This is far from exhaustive, but let me share with you a few pointers, gleaned from painful experience.

Rule #1:

Stop asking
Learn not to ask too many questions of the 'Where are you going?' or 'When will you be back?' variety. Just tell yourself that you have brought your children up to be sensible, responsible young people and you must treat them so, and trust them to take good care of themselves. But occasionally, it will slip out. "What are your plans tonight?" you ask innocently. "Going out, Mum. " And before you can stop yourself, you have automatically asked, "Where?" to which the reply is, most of the time (and all credit to my children) is the truth. But just occasionally I get a gentle, reprimanding, "Mum. Stop it. It doesn't matter. I am going out. "

Rule #2:

Stop hovering One has to, absolutely, totally, completely curtail those helicopter instincts (apparently, I am a Grade A helicopter parent). For example, just two days ago, knowing I would be travelling and therefore unable to attend the inauguration of an exhibition, I suggested to my daughter that she went instead.

"Great idea, Mum, thanks. I will go with Aishwarya, but I don't have her mobile. "
Trying to be helpful, I offered to call Aishwarya's mother, but before I could even finish the sentence, I was stopped mid-helicoptering.
"Mum. Do not even think about trying to organise my social life for me. Mum, seriously. No. "

Rule #3: 

Stop worrying (as if. . . )
On the issue of what time they get back after their un-helicoptered social life, we trust them to keep in touch, they have their own house keys, and so what if I leave a light on until they get back, which means I never properly sleep. . . these are the bits of parenting that those early days manuals omit to tell you. But they are both, yet again, responsible, and usually text us if they are going to be especially late, so one can't grumble.

Rule #4: 

Stop 'tidying' their rooms
I am told that I used to be shocking at fossicking in my son's room, in the guise of 'tidying up'. Absolute nonsense, of course. I never did such things. But now, I consciously limit my forays into their rooms and into how they organise themselves. Hard as it is to curb the instinctive, maternal queries as to whether they need their laundry doing or something dry-cleaned or do they need more shampoo or toothpaste. . . I just don't do it any more. Well, most of the time, I don't. When they need maternal fussing, they can ask for it, is my new mantra.

Rule #5: 

My house, my rules
They know that. Parental values and parental standards hold ultimate sway.

Rule #6: 

Accept change gracefully
Actually, one has to accept change not only gracefully but also gratefully. I am truly thankful that I still get to see my children every day, even if it's only a fleeting glimpse. I am grateful that I still (sort of) know what happens in their lives.
It's a process of gradually distancing yourself, I suppose, which doesn't come naturally to all of us. Yes, of course, they are adults and need to be treated as such. But they are still living in their old rooms, with old school books on their book shelves, and so the temptation is to think that they still need you as much as you need to be needed. That's the tricky part. Negotiating a new adult-adult equation. Accepting that the balance of power has shifted somewhat in the household.
The grown-flown formula has morphed into grown-flown-flown back again.
Oh, yes,

Rule #7:

Seize the moment. Because one day they will really leave.

Reader's opinion (2)

Anu May 23rd, 2013 at 10:13 AM

very well written, I wish my in laws, and parents read this too !

Preeti DalalApr 27th, 2013 at 08:40 AM

excellent article!!!!!!!!!!
needed this

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