Friday, October 23, 2015

Helicopter Parents

“A lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves,” Graffiti artist Banksy

Parents can’t win.  Whereas in the past they elicited criticism for neglecting their kids, now self-appointed experts have coined the phrase “helicopter parents” for those who allegedly try too hard to shield children from failure and disappointment.  For example, in “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids for Success” Julie Lythcott-Haims warns that over-helping “can leave young adults without the strength of skill, will, and character that are needed to know themselves and to craft a life.”  The goal of parents, she argues, should be to make offspring self-sufficient – in her words, “to put ourselves out of a job.”

The pejorative phrase “helicopter parent” suggests hovering, lingering near loved ones in a stifling, over-protective way by closely monitoring all manner of activities.  On the other hand, a case can be made for involved parents who are supportive of their kids’ need for independence but wish to keep them from harm until they are better prepared to protect themselves. As one wrote on the website bleuwater: I monitor computer and TV viewing. I check book bags daily and stay in communication with their teachers. I ask questions about their day and try and spend one-on-one time with them every night…wait a minute…Does that really make me a helicopter mom or an involved mom?!”

Although the ideal of a close-knit, happy family unit was central to my parents’ Fifties suburban middle-class existence, Midge and Vic did not keep tabs on everything I did or everywhere I went, so long as I was home for dinner or at a decent hour on weekends.  They did not, for instance, press me to take piano lessons or play organized sports.  On the other hand, they did encourage me to join the Cub Scouts (Midge was my den mother), and it was understood that I should make good grades in order to get into college.  Above all, I was not to bring shame upon myself or to the family.

Christian Science Monitor quiz questions to determine if one is a helicopter parent ranged from how much to help a child with a science project to whether to use a GPS tracking device to know where a teenager is at all times.  In groan-inducing “Helicopter Mom” (2014) overbearing Maggie Cooper outs her sexually ambiguous son to make it easier for him to win an LGBT college scholarship – only it turns out he falls for a girl. 

Katy Steinmetz’s Time cover story about childrearing practices of the so-called Millennial Generation stated:
  Helicopter-parented, trophy-saturated and abundantly friended, they’ve been hailed by loved ones as ‘special snowflakes’ and cast as the self-centered children of the cosseting boomers who raised them.

Passing Chuck Gallmeier on his way to class, I asked what he’d be teaching, and he answered, “social stratification.”  I assume he’ll discuss the hierarchical division of societies pertaining to the “holy trinity” (Nicole’s Anslover’s phrase) of race, class, and gender.  Structural functionalists have argued that social inequality has beneficial consequences for the smooth operation of a society, but most sociologists realize that stratification benefits the few at the expense of the many and in extreme cases leads to oppression.
Jeff Manes, whose Post-Tribune SALT column on me will be in his forthcoming book, interviewed Carlyle Edwards, until recently project manager of the East Chicago nonprofit agency Bridges of Care.  Originally from western Pennsylvania, Edwards believes Region cities should emulate Pittsburgh by diversifying.  He told Manes:
            The leadership of Northwest Indiana needs to leave. Not permanently, but temporarily. They need to visit other places, other living space programs that have turned around cities. They need to bring some of those ideas back.

With the Cubs behind 8-3, after Daniel Murphy homered in his sixth consecutive postseason game, a Wrigley Field sign read: “We Need a Miracle.”  Alas, it was not to be.  Though the Cubs went 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season, there was little truth to the die-hard White Sox fans’ claim that they choked.  The Mets had better pitching and clutch hitting.  Winning 101 games gives Chicago fans optimism for the future.  I had hoped to be watching game 5 Thursday at Hobart Lanes, where I had my first decent series of the season, 450.

In the Chicago Sun-Times Michael Sneed wrote that the Billy goat whose owner supposedly put a curse on the Cubs in 1945 was named Murphy, as was the unpopular Cubs owner in 1908 who cursed his players when they wouldn’t let him come to their celebration dinner. Both the general manager and broadcaster for the 1969 Miracle Mets were Murphys, and the Cubs three-game NLCS collapse in 1984 took place in San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium.  Sneed summed up the Cubs-Mets series by citing Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

At my reunion two weeks ago Donald Stroup mentioned frequently passing through Terre Haute, Indiana, on western trips.  When I expressed hope to visit a friend who was incarcerated there, he and Joe Ricketts wanted to know more about the case but a third classmate just made a sarcastic comment about politicians and walked away.

I’ve been approved to visit George Van Till at the federal correctional camp in Terre Haute on November 14.  He wrote: “You might not recognize me in geeky prison glasses and having lost a hundred pounds and [with] a depressed look on my face.”  He signed the letter, “Warm regards, G.V.T.”  How sad that one who dedicated his life to government (g.v.t.) service should be a victim of selective and arbitrary law enforcement.  Federal prosecutors commonly charge their victims on so many counts (i.e., wire fraud for pays staff members using direct deposit) that they virtually blackmail their prey into a plea bargain.   Regarding over-criminalization, retired law school professor John Baker has written: “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime.”  Civil rights attorney Harvey A. Silverglate estimated that the average American unwittingly commits three felonies a day.

Ron Cohen alerted me to Rick Perlstein’s article in The Washington Spectator about a Bernie Sanders house party in Griffith, Indiana, where the candidate spoke by live feed.  Hostess Gypsy Milenic told Perlstein: “This home is paid for by union dues.  That matters. Keeping it in the family; that matters.  Being able to have a small town like this that is a mix of blue-collar and white-collar matters.”  A young conservative told Perlstein: “I approve of some of the stuff that Bernie stands for - like appealing to more than just the one percent and trying to give everyone a leg up who’s needing it these days.”  Another told the crowd:
            Both my parents together made barely over the poverty line, and I can tell you that life sucks. I have no financial support from my family. I get very little from the government. I am on my own, trying to make it, trying to thrive, just like everybody behind me. And it’s hard. And I am currently about 50 grand in debt between student loans, car loans. . . and I am trying so damned hard. And working so damned hard.  I see all my friends who suffer the same way I do, and they can’t make ends meet. They work three jobs. . . and they still struggle! And it just burns me. Because it wasn’t like this! Now, you go to college for four years and you’re in debt 20, 30 years, sometimes for life. I want to see change. And I believe Bernie Sanders is the one to do it.

African American retiree Martha Harris first took notice of Sanders when Black Lives Matter advocates confronted him at a rally in Phoenix.  Harris told Perlstein: I saw him flub. And like any white man, his staff put him out there without his underwear on. So he ran home and he got his long johns on. And I’m okay with that. He’s learning.”  At the house party Harris was so impressed that she opened a “Sanders for President” storefront in Hammond. 

In a poetic essay entitled “Le Your Hand be Strong” IUN Physical Plant worker Hollis Donald praised his boss Otto Jefimenko.  Don’t tell him you can’t do something, Donald wrote, “because one thing he will always ask is ‘why not?’  He himself can do every job at Physical Plant; some years ago Dr. Otto saw a vision of a renewed Gary.  He would not let anyone tell him the power of regeneration did not exist in the almost forgotten territory of Gary.”

Environmentalist Lee Botts and film producer Pat Wisniewski invited me to a “final cut” screening of the one-hour documentary “Shifting Sands” at the National Lakeshore Visitors Center. Other guests included archivist Steve McShane (who provided many of the visuals), Miller historian Steve Spicer, geologist Mark Reshkin, SALT columnist Jeff Manes, and about 60 others, Including environmentalists and business leaders.  I appeared a half-dozen times talking about the intrusion of U.S. Steel and the city of Gary to the pristine dunelands. At one point the film stuck with my image on the screen, like at the Black International Film Festival showing of “My Name Is Gary.” Hope I’m not a jinx.  Ken Schoon mentioned that sand was mined for export to Chicago and for use in making blue Ball canning jars in Muncie, Indiana.  The film summarized recent cooperative conservation efforts, such as the Grand Calumet River Task Force.  One turning point was when the federal government gave polluters the option of paying hefty fines or using the money in cleanup efforts.

Afterwards Botts solicited comments.  Outspoken curmudgeon Herb Read said the product was improvement over a previous cut but still lacked material about the origins of the dunes and details about the role Save the Dunes Council played in bringing about the creation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Twice Botts tried to move on to someone else, but that only seemed to spur him on to continue the diatribe.  Clearly suspicious on corporate good will gestures, Read in the film describes how Bethlehem Steel destroyed the central dunes – employing heavy machinery 24 hours a day within ear-shot of his house – before environmentalists could save them.  I recommended including material about the Bailly Alliance, a mass movement that prevented the building of a nuclear power plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline.  In the film former Local 1010 president Mike Olszanski discusses activities of a steelworkers environmental committee - a perfect place to add the material.

After the show I went looking for Park Ranger Amanda Board and found the IUN grad with a customer in the gift shop.  Despite her new hairstyle and glasses, I recognized her sweet smile and soft voice and we chatted for a few minutes, after which she called me Jimbo, warming my heart.  She said her life was going well and that she hoped for a career with the Park Service.  I once again suggested that she look into Hawaii, where there are numerous national parks.

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