Not the Helicopter Type
Closing ThoughtsOpinion

Not the Helicopter Type

Shaindle Schmuckler recounts the few rules the family kept, including attendance at weekly family meetings.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Shaindle Schmuckler
Shaindle Schmuckler

No, I was not a helicopter mom.

The term was not even created yet when I was a young mommy.

First of all, I am afraid of heights. Any heights. Second of all, I believe in natural consequences, leaving lots of space for children to develop skills they would need as girls and young women.

When my girls started school, we had very few “rules” at home. Everyone had to be at the Sunday evening family meeting. Age and gender aside, each week we rotated who would take the minutes and who would run the meeting. Too young for the secretary of the day to keep record, I would surreptitiously take a backup set of minutes, in this case crayons served as the writing tool.

Everyone got a turn to speak. No one was allowed to degrade or embarrass anyone else. We could say something about one’s behavior but absolutely could not call a member of the family “doody head.” If we had a visitor sleeping over or just staying for dinner, they were warmly invited to sit in – no sharing.

This was our time to express frustrations or happiness with events of the week. If follow-up was needed, this was so noted in the minutes – both sets. The recording secretary of the week, using crayons, wrote this down in red crayon so as not to forget.

I was a working mom.

My girls worked as hard as I did. I had a job; they had a job. I am absolutely not referring to chores. We all knew we had to contribute to the smooth running of our home and to keeping it safe, clean and interesting; these chores were not considered jobs. Attending school and learning was their official job. Praises and sometimes little sussies (surprise gifts) were their rewards. Their allowances were based on their age, giving them a sense of independence. They were encouraged to save half and spend half.

I have a plethora of little stories that support my claim of not being a helicopter mom.

Here’s a couple culled from the plethora:

We lived in a beautiful community, less than a mile from the girls’ school. They had the privilege of attending a school boasting a large fabulous campus, a lake with lots of ducks and peacocks, a large geometric dome and a tree house for learning and studying. I am sure you get the picture.

One fine day, we were all scrambling to get to our “jobs” on time. My husband had poured the girls’ cereal and juice to speed the process – if possible. One of my girls was wearing an outfit that required blue knee-high socks. Given the rush we were in, the older two, including the child with blue knee-highs, rode their bikes to school. The younger two went to work with me.

Are you wondering why I mention the blue knee-highs?

As soon as I arrived at my office, the phone rang. It was her teacher asking if I knew she did not have shoes on. She rode her bike with socks on her feet. The teacher asked if I would bring the shoes. Now, given my belief in natural consequences, what would you guess my response was?

And I am proud to say, some of you have been paying attention. She did quite well without shoes, and her socks simply needed a good laundering.

Speaking of laundry, the girls were very young when they learned to do the laundry, including putting away clothes recently washed. OK, away means different things to different children, this is true. However, with some very funny mishaps now and again, they could always find what they were looking for. If for some reason they could not find clean clothes, there were always the dirty ones just waiting in the wings to be chosen one more time.

For one of my daughters, her red, white and blue swimsuit seemed to get chosen virtually every day. (I finally bought a second suit, and I would quietly sneak the fresh one in her room so the not-so-fresh one could catch a much-needed break.)

Still not convinced?

One more proof of the pudding, or in this case, proof of the helicopter.

As I recall it was a Tuesday afternoon. It was the day of a major girls’ softball game; our team was in last place fighting to stay in the girls’ softball tournament. We were on our way to the field when we stopped at the 7-Eleven store for a snack and a Slurpee to help sustain my ballplayers. In order to keep my girlish figure, I stayed in the station wagon, for fear my mind might urge me in the absolute wrong direction.

The girls climbed back in, all decked out in their softball uniforms and already snacking on their snacks. I checked my rearview mirror and noticed the girls “eye talking.” Uh oh, I quickly assessed the look on their faces, and I realized something was up.

A mom always knows…well, almost always. A pack of gum is on the verge of being opened. I knew I did not give them enough money for gum.

One of my precious, innocent ballplayers helped herself to a pack of gum. “I was going to share it” came the innocent cry. After a brief discussion, and after the game, (I do not recall if we won or lost – no matter) we returned to the store, where said innocent entered the store and explained to the shopkeeper what she had done and returned the gum, after she paid for it with the money I lent her.

When we got home, said innocent repaid me the loan out of her allowance.

No screaming, no punishment, only the natural consequence of identified behavior.

No helicopters flying above.

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