June 10, 2014

Helicopter parents escalating hostilities against the community

When will the cocooning mindset open up? The best way to keep your finger on the social pulse is to look at whether parents allow their children to have a life of their own vs. hold them close and lock them up at all hours.

My brother told me that, in the safe middle-class area where he lives, the local parents are starting to cause traffic problems near school bus stops. They've moved beyond walking their kids to the stop and hovering over them, to driving over in the car and parking near the stop until the bus arrives, when they are allowed to open the door and head over to the bus.

That's right -- drive-in bus stops for school children. I forgot to ask whether the parents let the kids walk from the car to the bus on their own, or whether the parents escort them while hovering.

Was this an isolated example? I googled "parents parked at bus stop" and found several news reports on the first page alone. One article was from the Southeast, where my brother lives. How about a different region, like Noo Joizee? According to this article:

The Jefferson Township Police Department is asking its residents—and particularly parents of school-age children—to help alleviate traffic concerns caused by parents parking vehicles near school bus stops.

Police Capt. Eric F. Wilsusen said that with the rise in parents driving rather than walking their children to bus stops, there has been an increase in the number of vehicles parked near the stops.

"Some bus stops have in excess of 10 vehicles parked at some stops," Wilsusen said in a statement. "The numerous vehicles are causing concerns for traffic and pedestrian safety, particularly at busy intersections."

He added that the police department has seen "numerous complaints" from the community regarding the issue.

And just what kind of post-apocalyptic ghetto hellhole do these poor children live in, where they require such obsessive supervision? "It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you!" The 2010 Census says the town is 91% white and 5% Asian, median family income over $100,000 -- better send your kids to school wearing body armor!

These situations are making it clearer and clearer that helicopter parenting is not just a private choice with private effects, but one that disrupts the lives of others in public spaces and corrodes communal cohesion. In thoughts and in actions, the nuclear family is waging a daily battle against the community. Welcome to "amoral familism" in white middle-class America.

And the parents have nothing to fear, since a cocooning climate favors the tiniest possible social units -- family over community. All they have to do is speak the magic words -- parent, children, family, "as a mom," "as a dad" -- and the debate is over. Get out of the way, community -- there's FAMILIES coming through!


  1. When I was a kid in the 80s, it was mixed: 2 cars for the kids from the trailer park across the road and me and my brothers on foot. We actually biked most of the way and parked them at my cousin's house and walked the remaining 100 feet.
    We began doing this when I was 8 and my brother 7. My dad and step-mom were much older than the other parents (1941 and 1945) versus early 60s.

    The other parents' behavior struck me as weird at the time, but then my friend was kidnapped and murdered from a bus stop. Ours and several surrounding counties changed it so that all schools were on the same schedule to increase likelihood that older children were with younger ones at bus stops. When I moved to north Florida, that system, along with a buddy requirement for leaving class (ie. to go to the bathroom) had long been in place in response to the Kimberly Leach murder in '78 or '77.

    My kids are homeschooled so I don't have to wrestle with that. Having lived through a friend being murdered, I know I'm affected on a visceral level that I will never get over. Plus, having a vicious, abusive stepmother that had everyone fooled, including my own mother, taught me to never take my eye off my children. I wish I could be more care-free; I work at it. Im much better with my teens, even above the normal allowance, and I suspect it's because these were such good, safe, and happy years for me.

  2. communal cohesion is already corroded. The corrosion/erosion is the cause not the effect

  3. well if the public is complaining about it, that can only be a good sign that we've reached rock bottom, and the cocooning trend will begin to reverse itself soon.

  4. theo the kraut6/10/14, 6:27 PM

    Back in the late sixties, aged six, my friend and I took a canoe and paddled all Sunday through the inner city canals of a German port city of middling size. We were asked to be back for dinner, just that. Till aged six I had to remain in the communal yard of our apartment house for outside play (house ownership over here is ~ 50%), then I was allowed to roam with the bigger kids, as was customary. (...back for dinner! we got scolded when not being punctual, though)

    My parent's post-war generation of the late 40ies was even better off--their parents (often widows or involuntary single moms) were busy making a living, so the kids were unsupervised and checked out ruins and bomb craters. No records of increased child mortality exist, somehow the kids managed to not get blown up or be squished by debris. Those were the days... We all got a talk once of not taking sweets from strangers and to be wary of weirdos, but nobody worried overly. My mom once saw an exhibitionist while taking me for a walk (I didn't pay attention, didn't find that interesting) and called the police--we checked the neighbourhood in the back of the police car and I got to hold the cop's traffic paddle, yay, great fun!

    One day though I got a severe reprimand--I felt funny with my foreign first name so I told the kids a had a regular German one; when my grandma found out she nearly exploded, there was a strict no-nonsense policy effective.

  5. theo the kraut6/10/14, 6:39 PM

    > ...took a canoe and paddled all Sunday through
    > the inner city canals of a German port city

    occurs to me now that no passer-by did seem to worry, neither--today they'd probably call 911 and the coast guard.

  6. Theo_the_Kraut...re your canoe story...Gerhard Neumann, who for years ran GE's jet engine business (which he played a big part in creating) grew up in Germany before WWII. In his memoir, he mentions that when he was 13, he and a 12-year-old friend took their kayak on multi-day camping expeditions down the Oder River. It's interesting that some of the same spirit still survived in the late 1960s....I'm curious, do you think his story or yours could happen in germany today?

    My review of Neumann's book is here:


  7. theo the kraut6/12/14, 10:25 AM

    David, rather not, maybe in the countryside, but else chances are the parents get sued for negligence. Dads understand, but moms shudder when I tell that story now, same as in the US.

  8. From what I see, the parents walk their kids right up to the bus - often onto the bus and to their seat. These kids will grow up needing the government to take care of them every step of the way.

  9. Growing up in the early 80's I was allowed to roam the neighborhood as was the norm in that day. I was hit by a car while riding my "big wheel" at age 9 and almost died. From that experience I turned into an unapologetic helicopter dad in present day. Sure its nice to wax nostalgic of the good old days but there are real reasons why parents today are so overprotective, because its those parents that experienced parental neglect in their own childhoods.


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