Smelly Socks: Helicopter mom hovers at son's first dance
"Hey, Mom? Well, see . there is this dance. So, can I go?" My ears perked up when my 12-year-old, Austin, innocently asked me if he could attend a Spring Fling dance. This is his very first dance. An area 4-H club holds a winter dance and a spring dance for fifth- through eighth-graders.
This is the first dance Austin has ever expressed an interest in going to. Caught off guard by his question and, frankly, surprised at his interest, I stuttered a somewhat supportive "Uh, OK."
Then my mind kicked into overdrive and thoughts raced through my memories of just how old I was when I went to my first dance. I fretted over all of the preteen drama, and then I remembered, "Hey, I am a girl. Boys are so different. No petty drama for them." I was relieved to know that the merciful Lord knows just what you can handle, and he blessed me with boys.
Last summer, with my parents' wise forethought, Austin was enrolled in six dancing lessons with a talented dance instructor in Victoria. I remembered spending a lot of time when I was in high school heading off to the famous Schroeder Hall to go to country dances with other kids from the area.
Knowing the Texas tradition of everyone mastering the notorious Texas two-step, Austin's dance lessons focused heavily on that very dance, and he actually got it down.
He would cover the entire dance floor while mastering turns and partner spins. He even ventured into the scary waters of the polka. So now - what I considered way too soon - those dancing lessons would be put to good use.
I never hid the fact from Austin that I was going to stay and chaperone this dance. I remembered and grimaced at the fact that my parents used to do the same thing. My dad would say, "Oh just forget we are here. Go on. Have a good time. See, you won't even know that we are here."
I remembered that I never could shake the feeling of being watched and watched very closely. I also remembered that my friends also could not look past the fact that my parents were there.
More than once, a friend would thank me for coming to their party and say, "Thanks for coming but can you leave your parents at home next time?" I wanted to melt right there on the spot. I always wanted to say, "Oh, you mean those two strangers standing there that I happen to resemble?
Oh, I have no idea who they are. Some weird people." If, for any reason, my parents couldn't make the dance or party or they had finally had enough of my pleading for them not to go, they then sent my older brother to do the job.
He blended in a little better with the younger crowd, but he took his job very seriously and then enrolled his friends to see just who was talking or dancing with his little sister and if they approved of that person.
Looking back, I can appreciate the fact that they took the time to take me to parties and dances and were concerned enough to be very present and involved in what was going on.
Now at my age, I can admit having my family close by did give me a certain sense of security. I can only hope that one day Austin will also look back fondly on his first dance experience and the fact that I was there chaperoning, trying to conceal myself in a dark corner.
After about 30 minutes of visiting with his friends, Austin finally asked a young lady to dance. I noticed that when that first dance was over, he thanked his dance partner and walked her back to where she was standing.
"Score! Yes!" He really did listen to my instructions of what a proper young man does. My heart swelled with pride. He really paid attention to me. Will wonders never cease?
My little boy is now entering the roller-coaster time in his life when girls will suddenly become very important. Thankfully, I have a few years before he will be of driving age and then can truly date. I plan to take advantage of these few remaining years that he depends on me for transportation.
Yes, I will proudly be his chauffeur. I plan to be present at every event that I can be present at. Whether he appreciates me being there or not, it is my right as a parent. Everyone knows the saying about the helicopter mom who is always hovering over her children.
I take great pride in my hovering. I come from a long line of hoverers. Hopefully, I'll pass that trait on, and when my children have their own children one day, I hope that I will be around to see them doing some hovering of their own.
Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at firstname.lastname@example.org.