And they’re back. Just as the swallows return to Capistrano each spring, the soccer helicopter parents have returned to the park up the street from my humble abode. Aside from hogging all the legal parking spots on streets in the immediate vicinity of the park, causing locals returning home from work much annoyance as we circle and circle trying to find a space, they’re fine. Except, that is, for those of them who arrive late and are unable to secure a legal spot for their SUV and decide to just leave it, confident that should they be ticketed they can claim their right to watch their child. A right that only exists in their mind, but one that is often honoured by the community.
Wikipedia defines helicopter parents as ‘one who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover over their children’. While schools offer wonderful examples of the species, as illustrated in the cartoon below by Emmanuel Chaunu, recreational and sporting events also draw them by the carload.
The playing field is a large area designed to accommodate about five or six games at once, given that the little guys play the width of the field, not the full length. That’s a whole lot of boys and girls playing and enjoying these recreational leagues; competitive, but everyone plays. It’s even more parents watching and cheering-on the kids. When I was a wee lad the spring-time game of choice was not soccer, but softball and in the fall, touch football. However the field was the same one. But in those days parents did not seem to feel it was absolutely necessary to attend every single game. Nor would we kids have wanted them to.
The recreation department of my municipality, the leagues of which provided me with many enjoyable childhood hours, relies on volunteer coaches. They used to have a strictly enforced rule that no parent could coach his or her own child. This eliminated any allegations of coaches overplaying their own kid, or underplaying them in an effort not to be seen as giving their own child too much playing time. No playing favorites. This worked well for years, but as the size of the leagues grew, and the number of willing coaches dwindled (perhaps due to the potential for accusations of abuse that were all the rage at one time), the rule could no longer be enforced.
But the thing that amazes me is not the parent coaches, but the concept that these kids must not get out from under their parents’ gaze for even a few minutes. Certainly, when I was a kid parents would drop by from time to time, but not every minute of every game! Give them some room for God’s sake. Stop hovering.
More from the ‘back in my day’ department: I don’t remember there ever being parent-teacher meetings when I was at school. If there were my parents certainly did not attend them. Parents sent their kids to school where trained teachers educated them. Granted some of those teachers were better than others. Then three or four times a year report cards were sent home with students that outlined in detail the child’s strengths and weaknesses. After a few days it was brought back by the child, having been signed by a parent, and was given to the teacher. If there was a significant problem with a child the teacher would call the parent directly and discuss the matter.
A fine example of helicopter parents can be found in a television advertisement for some fruit gel thing that provides kids with a bit of energy. In the ad the mother and father are running with the boy, evidently they are late for his soccer game. As they near the field the child decides then that he’s hungry. Recognizing the request for instant gratification, they stop and out pops the fruit thing from mom’s bag, down the hatch it goes and off to play runs the boy. There was a time when, had the parents been there, they would have told the child to get out on the field, stop holding up the game. When an appropriate stoppage of play occurs, then you can eat. With the possible exception of diabetics, I doubt any child is in any danger should they play a few minutes while hungry.
If these parents are going to continue to hover, perhaps a solution to the problem of locals losing out on parking spots that we pay for is to install several helipads on house rooftops. Alas this may prove expensive, and won’t do a thing to help the kids to get out from under their overly attentive parents.