Just yesterday, you were at the playground, chasing little Ayden as he bolted around the jungle gym, keeping a hand outstretched in case he might stumble and fall. Or maybe you were at a middle-school PTA meeting, cowing the other moms and dads into submitting to your field-trip theories. Or perhaps you were at the principal’s office, arguing at length why Carmela, now a 16-year-old junior, needed to be part of the National Honor Society, despite her 2.9 GPA and lack of any extracurricular service deeds. Well, wherever you were, you were a helicopter parent. (Unless you were in Scandinavia, in which case you were a “curling parent.”)
This post isn’t really about anything substantive—I’m just fascinated by the way we name parenting styles. Or maybe not fascinated—more like “annoyed.” In the U.S. these days, we often get seduced by the cleverness of a particular phrase, and certain ideas enter the public consciousness based on how outrageous or funny they are, not whether they accurately reflect reality.
Consider another parenting label: the idle parent. Frankly, this is an idea we at Dadwagon can really get behind—just don’t do too much, let the kids organize their own fun, and if you really have to deal with the children, get them to do odd jobs around the house that you don’t want to do yourself. Okay, good! But as an idea, or meme, “idle parent” just doesn’t have the popular currency of “helicopter parent.” Ditto for “slow parenting,” which doesn’t sound quite as sexy as “slow food.” Whereas “free-range kids,” whatever the merit of the idea, is just a fucking awesome moniker.
If it wasn’t 8:30 in the morning and I didn’t have other things to do, I’d come up with my own clever list of catchy parenting styles soon to be brought to you by some local newspaper. But since this is a blog and I need to run, I’m leaving it up to you, my readers: What’s the next ridiculous (and ridiculously catchy) parenting style the New York Times will soon discover?