Ditching the Helicopter

It’s time to hang up my helmet…

Helicopter graphic by the incomparable Breena Nuñez

I’ve been a mom for almost 35 years. I passed Helicopter Parenting 101 with flying colors. My friend admirably remarked once that, “You always know where your kids are!” I was proud of that….but it’s time to retire the whirlybird. My youngest just graduated from high school last week, and promptly moved to LA. What!!!???

I thought I was doing well…trying not to care where they were or when they’re gonna be coming home. Trying to mind my own business (which for three and a half decades was them). But tonight, a friend of my daughter’s was over and they were going out….I “kneejerked” suggested they get something for their brother….their brother who is 28 years old….”a grown man” he always reminds me. Shoot, I can’t undo my meddling or their embarrassment.

So….I am going to retire the helicopter, and entrust these birdies to God. Y’all pray for me because worrying and fretting is in my nature, I inherited it from the best – my dad. We are so thankful he never had a cell phone. But he did just fine with a landline. We all have stories of him tracking someone down who he was worried about. I think Katie has the best stories, he called hospitals, police departments and the CHP looking for her once.

Uhm…I haven’t gone that far…except, maybe, when Eva and Nonnie missed their train stop in San Bruno. They were young, about 14. They both had phones, and both their phones, of course, had died. And it was 10:00 at night. A perfect worrying storm. How I lived through those years, I don’t know. A good and gracious God, no doubt, helped his anxious daughter.

Anyway, I am waiting at the train for these two girls. The 10:00 train, heading towards the City (the only real City – San Francisco) comes…and goes. No girls get off. Huh? Oh no…

I don’t have my phone because I left it with Espi at the house in case they called. OK, maybe they’re getting off at South City. So, I race over there. Nobody is to be found in that scary, desolate station.

So as I was beginning to hyperventilate, I run over to the nearby 7-11 and call Espi to find out if she had heard from Eva. She responds, “Yeah…all she said was that the next station is ‘Bayshore'”.

Oh crap….

Anyone familiar with San Francisco knows that the Bayshore area off 101 isn’t the best neighborhood, especially for two young teenagers, and most especially at night. It’s almost 11:00 now. I race over to the Bayshore station which is not far from a few, uhm, well, uhm, unsavory areas of the City. There is NO ONE there. It’s a large, dark station and I don’t even know where they would’ve even gotten off at. It’s almost 11:30. My blood pressure is climbing. I don’t know what to do.

I run back to San Bruno to my trusty pay phone at 7-11, and call Espi again for any update. None. So what could I do, but go full blown Dad Mode. I call the police, I call the San Francisco Police, the South San Francisco Police and the San Bruno Police. Did I miss anyone? Each of those agencies went and looked for two teenage girls at their respective stations and found no one.

So I go back to the San Bruno station and wait in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do next, fighting off the worst that possibly could go wrong. Not long after midnight, the last train pulls into the station, the train from the City, and off pops our girls.

And in an indignant, but relieved, imitation of my father, I take a deep breath and ask pointedly, “Where the hell have you guys been?”

They weren’t too keen on all the story details when I told them on our way home. Well, too *&^##! bad.

I should’ve ditched the helicopter then…yet, I still had another decade of mothering to go. But, it’s time now to retire the worry, the anxiety and the overseeing. They are on their own. Mission accomplished.

It’s time to let them go, let them go out “the gate” and live their own lives. Their lives which were so much a part of mine. I knew from the beginning I was only a temporary guardian, and that role is complete now. Though they were the stars of my show, I must be happy to be only a supporting character in theirs. It’s okay.

I’m looking forward to a new future…with new experiences and new freedoms. But I will always miss my littles, and I will continue to watch – and pray – from afar, just not overhead.

https://wordpress.com/post/fromtheshoe.com/67 – Hope for the Helicopter Mom

6 thoughts on “Ditching the Helicopter”

  1. Donna, your writing is always from the heart and clearly represents the genetic connection for paranoia inherited from your father and my good friend, Bob Moore. I always enjoy your ability to capture the reality of those feelings we do not want to accept and identify within ourselves. Kudos to you and I do hope the kids won’t mind you “flying over” once in a while…kinda like the Blue Angels.

    1. Thank you so much, Monica, for your comments. I always appreciate your thoughts, especially when you share memories of the old man. I miss them very much, as I know you do too. Lots of changes…

  2. Donna, I always love reading of your adventures…the way you share them make me feel that I to am in “The Action” also!
    Yes, we are only temporary guardians but that doesn’t mean we still don’t or won’t worry, and that will continue (for us the parents) forever!
    Cheers, Mark

  3. Love it – as always your story telling is vivid, I am there.

    Yet even deeper, how well you have expressed that formidable transition we are forced to take as our kids grow up, and out. What an incredible role to have been given, and survived! that of a mother – and to ten children, no less. Amazing.

    Enjoy YOUR next chapter and I’ll be waiting to read about it. And congratulations on a job(s) well done.

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