Then and now

Today’s excitement: a trip to the salon (formerly “the beauty parlor”…if only) for an overdue haircut and 20 blissful minutes of “me time.” (Is there anything better than someone else fixing your hair? Not in my world. Lamenting the $5 price increase, though.)

My stylist (formerly “beautician”), a 30-something mom of 2 girls, age 15 and 8, and her other client, also a mom, were talking about how much they worry about their kids all the time. Both encouraged their kids to text them throughout the day to let them know they arrived OK, got home OK, were generally OK, etc. Client mom mentioned her daughter even texted her from a slumber party to let her know they were going to sleep. (“Hi mom, love you…”)

I sat quietly in my chair, partly because I go nearly comatose when someone messes with my hair and partly because I’m not a mom and have nothing to add to conversations like those. But I kept thinking conflicting thoughts.

Angel on one shoulder: “Isn’t that nice — they’re so close to their kids.”

Devil on the other shoulder: “Are you kidding me? Can you say HELICOPTERING? I would have no more called my mom from a slumber party than I would have dished with her afterward about the Ouija board-‘she looks dead, she IS dead’-first girl asleep hand in warm water rituals that went on.”

Then, it was all about getting AWAY from your parents and grabbing whatever breathing space you could. Now, it seems all about keeping your parents around, even when they aren’t and you aren’t.

I’ve mused about the helicopter parents phenomenon before, and still don’t understand it. Is it a matter of today’s parents (my generation and younger) wanting to escape the heavier hand we were raised with? Is it a product of the scarier times we live in? Is it because the ability to communicate incessantly is instant and omnipresent? Is it about wanting to be the “fun parents” you didn’t have?

What kind of mom would I have been? I’ll always wonder. I’m sure I wouldn’t want to be like my parents (definitely not the fun kind), so maybe that means I’d automatically be more of a friendly hoverer. I wonder if it’s possible to raise independent, self-sufficient kids (i.e., able to survive in the “real world” — the one that involves working for a living, not the MTV house) who love you, but love their own space, too?

I can’t help chuckle, though, at the thoughts of what “texting” my mom would have been like — “Hi mom. At Lisa’s. Trying to figure out how we can go to boarding school to get away from you all…” (Seriously, we found one in the phone book and called to ask how much tuition was…$2080…in 1976 or thereabouts…we were astonished.) Or “Hi mom… Annie and her sister and I were at Houlihan’s (we got served!) and missed the last bus home so we hitched from the bus garage to Annie’s. Everything is fine.”

Not that being in constant contact means your kids tell you everything. But why do I think they’re telling WAY more than I ever would have?

Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.
~ Will Rogers