Seated to my left was my oldest son, the fifth grader. On his left was his younger brother and farther left my ex husband.
We were seated in a large secondary school theater listening to the principal as he shared all the reasons why we should consider applying for admission to his superior magnet school, recently listed in US News and World Report as one of the top schools in the United States.
My son fidgeted next to me, intermittently interested and most often bored. Principal Sullivan continued on and reached the slide that indicated the importance and inclusion of family in the school. One of the bullets on the slide referred to Connect Ed, an on-line service that allowed parents to monitor their child's daily activities. Parents could see if their children arrived to class on time, handed in homework, and many other details.
My son snickered next to me. I suspected he, like me, found that level of involvement to be a bit too intrusive. I questioned if I would ever have the time or desire to monitor every minute of my child's school day.
At the sound of my sons snicker, I turned to him.
"That seems a bit obnoxious, no? Having your parents able to check every minute of your school day?" I suggested
"Yeah, huh…and then some." he responded from behind his long Mitchell Musso-esque bangs.
"Those hovering helicopter parents the principal references would make me nuts" I responded.
"You mean like you, mom?" my son responded.
I winced. Like me? what did he mean by that? I kept my thoughts to myself but made a mental note to talk to him later about it.
On our way to dinner a short while later I asked him if he really thought I was one of those hovering mothers.
"Yeah, mom. I do. You need to lighten up. Chill out, you know" he responded.
"Like what? Give me an example of what I do that makes you feel that way. I am open to change. I don't want to be like that Nik." I responded.
"well, you know…" he said with a quiver in his voice.
I knew this was gonna make him uncomfortable. My son is not the type to criticize anyone. He does not like to tell anyone something bad or problematic about them. He doesn't like to hurt anyone's feelings.
"No, Nik really. I want to know. Its okay." I implore.
He gave me some sort of explanation that seemed lame, avoidant and made no sense to me. I failed to see how that was considered hovering or smothering. I dropped it for later follow up and additional thought.
I am still startled by this. I really don't think I am a smothering mother. But would I really know? Do mothers who overprotect their children know they are doing it? Do we justify it as saying we are being the best mother possible?
I am very aware that mothers who have lost their children to the adoption machine have the propensity to be overly protective or incredibly distant. We either try too hard to prove how worthy we are (and always were) of our children or we remain unattached to avoid the possibility of attachment and losing them. I have tried to find a comfortable middleground there.
Have I failed?