Monday, June 6, 2011

Helicopter parent

I just recently learned the term “helicopter parent” and (small gasp!) think I might on occasion—maybe—hover too much. Take a recent example from my busy week.

It was my girl’s first experience with trying out for a competitive soccer team. She has played for five years or so, thus far on recreational teams that sometimes rock—GO TWISTERS!—and sometimes don’t. In Texas, we were lucky that the team she started with pretty much stayed together, and those girls are still together, still rocking the league. Since arriving in Colorado last year, however, things haven’t been as great.

The team was full of wonderful girls and nice families (which is actually more important than winning) but only a couple girls stayed through two seasons, and the coach basically had to start all over, which led to a pretty dismal record. Since my daughter is now eligible for the U11 age bracket, the start of the competitive track in many clubs, the decision was made to change clubs and actually try out. She was a little nervous, but apparently did one of her signature moves. (Using her backside to block her opponent, she stole the ball and then ran it down the field.) She was quickly moved to a more advanced group of girls. Parents were informed that, if a coach saw something that he or she liked, a phone call would be made if your girl were chosen for a team. No phone call? Come back Thursday, and try again. So we waited, but no phone call came and, on Thursday, off we went to try again.

Now, knowing that my girl is awesome, I was a) a little disappointed we were not called and b) a little frustrated by her performance on Night Two. She seemed more content to visit with the other girls and stand around playing with her “penny” than chasing down balls. It took all my limited restraint to not pull her off to the side when she was rotated out and explain that she needed to go to the ball and visit with the girls later. (So, maybe I’m not a helicopter parent, after all?! I did restrain myself!)

Long story somewhat short. The coach apparently was excited when she learned my girl’s name, as they had tried to call but, somehow, the number didn’t work (maybe confused by the out-of-state cell?) and, now, two coaches wanted her for their teams! I could have done a cartwheel, I was so proud of my girl! Yes, I am sure there will be some complaining as this gets underway, as this is a year-round commitment, will cost more than the furniture I am currently coveting for my new kitchen and will involve travel to distant towns. (Grand Junction is a possibility. I hope that trip comes before the snow starts in the fall!) But it is a great opportunity for her to get some quality coaching and flesh out her skills a little more.

Then, it hit me. Are we nurses more prone to being helicopter parents? Is this a new term for micromanaging? In a conversation I had recently with a colleague, we discussed that, as nurses, we tend to lean toward micromanagement. We are taught from Day One to “micromanage” the care of our sick patients, who are hooked to complicated machines that, if left to others, could result in negative outcomes. It is so ingrained in us to maintain control that many of us have a hard time letting go of things we feel are our. We are also taught to manage the minutiae because, if we stay on top of the little things, we prevent the big things.

I try to remember this when I feel squeezed at work. When I feel like a playing card in someone’s obscure game that doesn’t make sense to me, or when my schedule is scrutinized down to the second, I have to remember some are more prone to being helicopters than others!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

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