Posted by: Hannah | 10/24/2014

getting out of the helicopter

I pride myself on not being a helicopter parent.

Ron gets dropped off at art class every Saturday morning and we leave to run other errands.

Harry walks home from the bus by himself because I’ve taught him how to be safe on the road and I have to trust that he has learned those lessons.

George clears his dishes off the table and is allowed to play outside without immediate and direct supervision, as long as he’s in the fenced yard.

My parenting mantra is “I am raising adults, not children”, and I really do try very hard to give them appropriate responsibilities and freedom so that they can develop their self-esteem, learn life skills, and also not exhaust me because holy shit, helicopter parenting has GOT to be tiring.

Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat, is what I’m saying.

But then things happen that make me wonder just how relaxed a parent I actually am. And I don’t know where the line is anymore between “helicopter” and “normal parent in the 21st century”.

Tuesday afternoon, Harry and Ron went to a friend’s house. At 5:30pm I got a call from the mom telling me that Harry had vomited at school. The school hadn’t called, AND they had sent him to another child’s house without checking to see if that was alright. That night at 11PM I got an email from the vice-principal, saying that she’d “meant” to call me, but had forgotten.

Wednesday, Ron spent some time in Harry’s classroom, because Ron’s class has a weekly popcorn and movie day. Kids are allowed to bring in movies from home (Ron took in The Gruffalo last week). A classmate brought in a Spanish movie aimed at tweens called Daddy, I’m a Zombie, and it scared Ron so bad he burst into tears and had to leave the room. The teacher didn’t screen the movie first, it’s rated PG, and he showed it to a roomful of first graders. Again, I heard about this from Ron, at bedtime when he was scared to have the light off, not from his teacher.

Yesterday, Ron came home with a fat lip. Not a little fat, either. Huge. Immense. Swollen to a ridiculous degree. No reasonable person could have missed that he had an injury. His lip looked like Wanda’s from In Living Color.

In case any of you have forgotten “In Living Color”, this is Wanda. My god. How was this on network TV, again?

He didn’t tell the playground monitor about it – apparently he and Arthur had collided, and when skull meets lip the results can be pretty horrible – but no teacher all day noticed it. Not his classroom teacher, not the playground monitor, not the music teacher. By the time he got off the bus he was in quite a bit of pain, and eating his dinner was a struggle. We’ve been applying ice since last night, and I gave him some ibuprofen this morning, but it’s still very puffy and uncomfortable.

Also yesterday, Harry was running around on the playground when his glasses got knocked off his face. And then he stepped on them. It was an accident, there was no ill intent, but apparently someone at the school needed pliers to put his glasses back together (they did a terrible job, too) and one lens is scratched beyond use or repair. He was surprised that I didn’t know about it. “They said they were going to call you!” he said, as he was putting on his alternate pair.

So I checked the voicemail. Nothing. Checked the call log on the phone. There was a call from the school, at just before 9AM. I was out, taking Louis to preschool. They didn’t leave a message. They didn’t try to call back. And no one emailed.

This is my internal dialogue this week:

A phone call would change nothing. The lip would still be fat, the glasses would still be broken, Harry would still have vomited in the bathroom. 

Yeah, but finding out these things in garbled fashion from the kids leaves me with questions.

The school has enough to deal with right now, what with ongoing roof renovations that are causing a logistical nightmare. They are putting out a lot of fires this week.

My kids are as important as the kids who are sensitive about the construction noise.

There is no way the school I went to at that age would have called home for any of these things.

In the 1980s we also thought Lucky Charms were part of a complete breakfast.

I am not comfortable with the kids being shown movies in school that aren’t rated G.

I took all three of my kids to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” – TWICE – so there goes that leg to stand on.

I am so tired of being the parent who calls the school.

I am so tired of being the parent who calls the school.

At least the helicopter and the free-ranger are in agreement about THAT.

Because I do call the school, sometimes. Harry is still on the wait list for a psych ed evaluation – that process began at the end of grade two and he’s now in grade four. He’s had the same kid bullying him since preschool and that’s needed my attention. Those to me are big issues that require a parent’s intervention.

I’m not sure about all these other things. The kids haven’t had any lasting trauma from any of it (although Ron is once again getting nervous about Hallowe’en, but that’s not new – he’s got a pretty severe case of maskophobia and is always a bit jumpy this time of year) and a call wouldn’t change any of it. The calls home are always after the fact, anyway.

I don’t know what the right course of action is here. I’m stressing about it. I shouldn’t be. But it’s been a stressful and difficult week anyway, so my brain is fixating on these small incidents because these are things I can control.

What would you do?




  1. You and I have very similar parenting philosophies. I’m also a proud non-helicopter parent. I, too, sometimes struggle with finding balance in that regard.

    It seems to me that this is less a parenting issue and more a communication issue with the school. Sure, knowing these things after the fact wouldn’t change anything, but as their parent, you need to know what’s happening with your kids! Sounds to me like it’s one of those “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease” situations — you’re not complaining about the lack of communication so they assume that you’re fine with it. If it were me, I’d be having a calm, non-confrontational conversation with the school about my concerns. This isn’t about helicoptering, this is about communicating.

    • Excellent point. It *is* the lack of communication that is bothering me. Not to make generalizations, but both boys have male teachers this year and communication is NOT their strong suit. (Case in point: Ron has the $8 agenda, like all students are required to, but the teacher lets the kids make up their own daily notes for it, and that’s all it’s used for).

      I think you’ve put your finger on part of what’s bothering me about this. Thank you. 🙂

  2. I think I’d be most upset about the vomiting. At our school they’d be sent home for that and not allowed back for 24-hours. I wonder if each of these had hit on separate weeks if it wouldn’t have seemed like as big of a deal, but to have them all happening in quick succession really makes it feel like the school is asleep.

    • Eventually – and I do mean eventually – I found out that the vomiting was triggered by my darling goober of a child refilling his water bottle from the fountain; the bottle that he had (unbeknownst to me) filled with leftover tea & milk two days’ previously. It was the taste of sour milk that triggered the vomiting.


      And you’re right, all of these things happening in the same week has been a bit much.

  3. I am totally with you on this. The movie and the fat lip would especially piss me off. When I pick up Owl at daycare they hastily tell me about any significant injuries and how they occurred and I appreciate that. Although for me I wouldn’t care so much about being NOTIFIED so long as I felt it was dealt with appropriately – if the fat lip was iced, if the movie was screened, etc. that lack of THAT is the most significant problem in my view. I AM ENTRUSTING YOU WOTH MY CHILD. TAKE CARE OF HIM WILL YOU.

    • “Dealt with appropriately” – EXACTLY. I get that Ron is hyper-sensitive to Halloween things, and no other kids in the class were unduly bothered, so letting him go hang out with his big brother was actually a completely appropriate course of action. I just wish the teacher had written a little note in the agenda, because then I could more easily open the “could the movies for the classroom please be rated G only” discussion.

      As for the lip, I do not know how none of the teachers picked up on it. I’ve also talked to Ron about being responsible and reporting injuries so that adults can give first aid if required.

      • Owl is the same way. He diesn’t like any movie with an antagonist right now. He won’t watch Cinderella because there’s a “mean lady”. He won’t watch frozen because of the big snowr giant that defends the castle.

  4. Things get forgotten or dismissed as no big deal at school. I have had a couple of similar situations. The first one, another boy collided with my son and bashed his face hard enough he had a 20 minute nose bleed, there was no call home, next morning the inside of his lips were all purple and swollen and he had black rings around his eyes. The next one was same son, got his thumb squashed in the hinge side of an outside door. His whole thumb was purple and he lost his nail. No call for that either.

    • Yes, I suspect this is why there were no calls about the vomiting and the split lip and the broken glasses – because in each case the kids bounced back and were fine. This is where I start wondering if I’m expecting too much (and perversely I don’t want them calling me for every little thing, either.)

      • I was pretty angry about both missed calls. Head injuries area supposed to be an automatic call. And his thumb, if it was his dominant hand he would have needed a scribe for a couple of weeks. Sometimes you have to release your inner mamma bear, or helicopter parent.

        • Did the school have anything to say about the no calls?

  5. I would call. I agree with Momma Sunshine, this is a communication issue. Especially around illness & injury (I would not expect to be notified about the glasses). Does your school have a nurse? I would have expected a sick or injured kid to go to the nurse. Maybe also also encourage the kids to advocate for themselves – this is something we’re still working on in our house, so I know it’s a process.

    • School nurses are not part of the landscape here – some schools (including ours) don’t even have a sickroom where kids can wait to be picked up by their parents. That’s a whole separate blog post. 😀

      Definitely, your point about teaching the kids to be their own advocates is well-taken. We had a little chat about that last night and I’m sure it will be an ongoing process.

  6. I also consider myself to be a free range parent. I have neither the time nor inclination to helicopter and I want to raise kids who can evaluate risk based on experience rather than just flail around (not that everyone doesn’t flail around in their teens and 20s, but hopefully less flailing).

    ANYWAY, that said, the failure to call with the barfing would upset me because if it was a stomach bug and H was contagious, he might have passed it on to his friend, which is not something anyone wants to do.

    The movie thing would also upset me because I’m going to be the one up at 2, 2:30, 3 am with Youngest when she has nightmares. If someone from the school wants to come and stay over at my house and be up half the night with my scared child, they should feel free to show movies that might scare small children. Since no one from the school is going to do this, keep the movies rated G because I already don’t get enough sleep as it is and Youngest doesn’t need to go to school tired from nightmares all night.

    Finally, the lip thing is of concern more because it seems no one noticed. Even just a quick “I see your lip looks puffy, are you ok?” Would make me feel better. The idea that no one even seemed to notice there was a problem is not reassuring.

    • The movie thing – OY. I have some issues with every Wednesday being “movie & popcorn” day anyway but now that I know the kids can just bring in movies from home and they get shown to the class without pre-screening, I’m extra-bothered.

      It may be that a teacher noticed his lip and Ron brushed them off; I don’t know. This is why I really wish someone had called. 😉

  7. Your child was physically injured and no one noticed, his property was damaged by a member of staff, he was sufficiently upset that he had to be removed from the classroom due to a choice made by his teacher, and he was taken ill and no one cared. This adds up to HOLY CRAP THIS SCHOOL. It’s not ok! I would definitely contact the school, present them with the same list and say “I would understand if it was just once but this is looking like a very worrying pattern”.

    • To be fair, the teacher was trying to fix the glasses after Harry stepped on them and popped a lens out. And not everything happened to one kid. But yeah. I was actually kind of gobsmacked when I wrote everything out today and realized just what a clusterfuck of a week it was.

  8. No way. They need to get better at communication. That’s ridiculous. Especially the vomiting thing. I don’t want to think of myself as helicopterish, but I’m not free-rangey either. Nonetheless, I would be hugely upset if I didn’t receive calls or emails on any of those things. All of them should be brought to your attention and not by the kids. I can see if R didn’t report the fat lip to the playground monitor, but the teacher should probably notice what a kid’s face looks like.

  9. Also – also – I would be very upset with that movie choice. Movies should be carefully vetted. My kids – M especially – were very sensitive with movies at that age. A lot of kids are. That’s unacceptable.

  10. I mean, M’s teacher sent home a note to me when they had a fire alarm – not a drill – at the school when he was in grade 3. It was -25 and they all had to huddle together outside in just their inside clothes and shoes. She sent a note to say that Mark’s ears hurt a lot after but he seemed fine by the end of the day. And he was fine, but I appreciated knowing that she checked in with him. Okay, this is my LAST comment I promise.

    • And to me, that’s reasonable – a quick call (or email, or note, or text, I’m not hard to get ahold of) just letting me know what went on is all I would need.

      I can’t decide which makes me the maddest, actually. The movie? The vomiting? The fat lip? The glasses? IT DEPENDS WHICH MINUTE YOU CATCH ME IN.

  11. Yup, the vomiting thing would have really, really upset me, too. That’s completely irresponsible on their part. Even though it turned out he didn’t have a flu bug or something like that, THEY didn’t know that. That I would talk to the school about.

    The fat lip thing, though upsetting, I can kind of see how people might not notice, especially if a kid doesn’t actually tell anyone. And depending on what they’re doing in the classroom, the teacher might not actually be looking right at the children’s faces. If the kids are bent down writing or drawing, for instance…

    The movie thing would bug me, too. But it’s the kind of thing that would annoy me, but I’d probably not actually phone about.

  12. Just another vote chiming in that this is a communication thing, not a parenting thing. Perhaps the head of your school would like a nice, itemized list of what happened last week and what should have happened. In writing. Friendly, but clear. Administrators tend to not be very fond of written accounts of what sounds to me must be failure to follow school policies. I think it’s better to start with a friendly, hey what’s going on can we fix it together sort of email. That way if this nonsense continues you have a written and non-hostile foundation for expressing your displeasure.

  13. Having become accustomed to Japanese standards, the whole vomiting incident sounds absolutely shocking. Whenever a kid gets hurt badly enough to possibly require medical attention, vomits at school or even has a slight fever, the parents are informed without fail. It is also standard for schools here to have at least one full-time nurse on staff.

    Today at school a fifth grade boy fell down a flight of stairs (ten to be exact), hit his head and twisted his ankle. Within five minutes his mother was called and an ambulance was sent to the school. The principal (who was at another school in a meeting) and our town’s board of education were also notified. His homeroom teacher rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital of his mother’s choice.

    I wouldn’t expect schools in Nova Scotia to meet these high (and arguably excessive) standards – having been sick and injured myself in Nova Scotian schools while growing up I am not surprised that this happened either. I can also understand your dilemma – nobody wants to be “that” parent. But if I found myself in your situation, I would probably talk to school about it. I like Samantha’s suggestion for dealing with the situation.

    Anyway, hope the week leading up to Halloween finds the Hodgepodge family happy, healthy and injury-free!

  14. Dude, if either of mine even allude to feeling poorly I’m called..I WISH their school would back off a little with the default calls when they’re ill(ish). I also tend to not expect much from the schools at this age-however, when they were in the younger grades, I wanted to know-because they couldn’t always explain shit to me. Notes always sufficed but at least I could get a “X happened to day, call if you need details.”

    Viv has a male teacher this year. I find that does make a difference.

    • Yeah, I’m still adjusting to the male teacher thing. The dynamic is VERY different from what I’m used to.

      • I met him the other night. Very not impressed.

        • Oh, that’s too bad. 😦 I’ve already met both of ours and I like them very much; just the different communication styles are causing some confusion.

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