I retired from a state university where I happily worked administratively with the students. Namely, with first-year students, I noticed that there were three types of parents:
The ‘hands-off’ parents
There were those who viewed and utilized the college freshman year experience for their new student as an initial, authentic stepping stone towards personal autonomy. Though readily available for counsel or assistance if and when needed, they encouraged their son or daughter to begin to take care of their business and make their own social and academic decisions independently.
The ‘hovering’ parents
There were the ‘other’ parents who wanted ‘in’ on every single aspect. From which institution to apply to and/or attend and even which program/career to pursue, to attending course advisement meetings and wanting to attend student sessions at orientations…even which extracurricular activities their child should or shouldn’t participate in! These parents were always there, some more prominent than others, but just always close, always hovering. It was the ‘hoverers’ that were known as ‘Helicopter Parents’.
The ‘in-between’ parents
And, of course, there were the parents who were betwixt and between, in the middle. They were not quite able, prepared or ready to give total independence. These parents intermittently popped in sometimes during inopportune times; however, they allowed some space, some autonomy.
During my college years, if I were to choose between the three, I consider that my parents ‘played the middle’. I was comfortable with that. It took a diagnosis in adulthood for me to learn what it was like to be hovered over, and I was definitely not content with that. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and how very worrisome it is! The effects from this chronic disease are never far away, nor does it allow me very much independence. Not that it began this way… It began like the parents in the middle. I lived with it, was aware that its presence was near, but I was able to exist without it being overbearing. At times, it’d rear its ugly head (exacerbations), but otherwise, I was able to carry on with not too much interruption.
MS became my ‘helicopter parent’
As time has moved on, my MS has progressed and it, too, wants ‘in’ on every facet of my life – rendering me zero alone time. It’s constantly around, always hovering. Hence, I liken it to helicopter parenting and have coined the attributes of my Multiple Sclerosis, ‘Helicopter MS’. Every decision I make, I have MS to influence what I decide. Everywhere I go, I have MS to consider. Anything I do, MS’ presence is just that…present.
The self-determination theory
According to the Self-Determination Theory, one of the three innate needs that all human beings need for healthy development is the basic need for autonomy to be satisfied with life. With that being said, just as a child reared by helicopter parents may want to scream “Please, guys…give me some space!” at some juncture, as a ‘victim’ of Helicopter MS, I want to shout out to this overbearing, incurable, chronic disease, “Leave. Me. Alone. And. Go. Lie. In. The. Pit. Of. Remission. Please!”
Tapping into an inner strength
Luckily, whereas helicopter parenting is not advantageous for children, Helicopter MS, though bothersome and frustrating, has actually been a bit beneficial for me. I have learned resiliency, acquired patience, discovered that I am capable and tapped into an inner strength I may have never known I had had I never needed it. If I must claim (Helicopter) MS, it will not be in vain. I’ll take the positive attributes from it to find satisfaction with my life.
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