Beyond Babedom

We're (way) over 40. Deal with it.

Diving In

We all know about helicopter parents – the ones who have managed to create an ever-growing umbilical cord between them and their kids. They drive me crazy, mostly because their kids are either incredibly obnoxious or they’re so super-dependent that I can imagine a future of me taking care of them during my “golden years” of retirement (“Hold on while I get my walker. . . “). But, of course, there is always the other end of the spectrum  –  parents that can barely take the time to notice their kids or, even worse than making  incredibly bad parenting decisions. . . they make none at all. They’re too busy ignoring their kids and counting on anyone and everyone else to pick up the slack – that’s what I call submarine parents.

I thought I was being über clever when I came up with that term. Right? Well, apparently I’m not the first. But despite the fact that someone beat me to the punch, I think it’s a phenomenon worth examining. Because the last thing I want to do when I’m traveling, dining or visiting family is have to dive in and be the navigator for these submarine kids.

You know when people say that you should need a license to have kids? Submarine parents are the reason why. You know you’ve seen them; the ones in the airplane whose kids are running up and down the aisles, screaming and dripping their juice boxes all over us. Or the ones you see at family functions, ignoring their kids and expecting the rest of us to keep them away from the Sterno or crystal champagne flutes.

I can understand being weary of running after a four year old, but how do you explain giving your kid ice cream and cupcakes for lunch? Sure, as a kid I would have wholeheartedly approved, but most people agree that prepubescent kids don’t usually make the best parental guides. On one hand, I don’t want to be in the “you shouldn’t have had them if you couldn’t control them” crowd, because I know it’s a lot more complicated than that. But, really, you did have them. . . and I didn’t. So, it is your responsibility. like it or not. As a non-parent (or, as I like to say, free adult), I may not have the same level of experience as you (though having 3 younger siblings I had to tend to – often – and sisters with no qualms about abusing my aunt status), but I think I know when you’re being, shall I say, less than parental.

When you don’t let them know that throwing food is bad, you’re a submarine parent. When you pretend you don’t notice them moving precipitously close to the deep end of the pool, you’re a submarine parent. When you let them decide to wear summer attire in the winter or sandals in the snow, you’re a submarine parent. And if you pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m gonna guess you’re one, too.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 at 12:10 PM and is filed under Family. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  1. Patrice says:

    Great topic. I get extremely annoyed when a parent says “it’s not worth the fight”. THE FIGHT???? You ARE the parent. There is no “fight”. I may not be mother of the year, however, I know it’s my obligation to raise my children to be kind, loving, respectful, and well mannered. Additionally, it is my duty to ensure my children are healthy, happy, and safe. Happy is not allowing them to have their way. Again, I’m sure I’m not perfect–practice, not perfection. We are human; not infallible.
    Although, I have an issue with those of you who are “free adults” who believe you know what to do or not do. You jump to quick judgment of parents with no clue as to what it takes to raise a child. You forget that it’s not the mistakes you see that define us. It’s the positives that should be praised. Why not a post about the mothers who struggled being single moms, fighting to put food on the table for their child(ren), or those women who have to deal with an ex filling their children’s head with verbal venom. Sometimes we (myself included) have to bend a little when we have limited parenting time with their child(ren). For me, I felt the need to keep them as happy as possible (when with me) making every effort to be the number 1 parent. It doesn’t work, there are no “how to” books on those topics. My children are respectful young adults/adult. They are perfectly imperfect, which is exactly what they should be.

  2. Judy Herring says:

    This is a sensitive topic. I was 31 when I had my first child, glad I waited because I didn’t have that “there is so much I want to do, but I can’t because I have a kid.” It’s sensitive because each child is different just like each parent is different. I think a lot has to do with how we were raised by our parents. I have always, and still do instill in my daughters to be respectful human beings. I think the lack of respect is a huge problem in today’s world. There is a very old saying “treat others as you would want to be treated.” I have tried to do that in my life, and I know my kids see that. If a person or people are not kind or respectful to me, I leave them alone. I tell my girls to do the same. I was a single mom for ten years raising them during their teenage years. As far as the parents who let their kids run wild on an airplane, or in church, in a store…don’t know the meaning of respecting others. I’ve made a tone of mistakes or should I say “lessons learned.” I always wanted kids and I’m so grateful I’m a mom. But, there are a lot of people who are not fit to be parents, yet they are. I don’t think people think it through carefully enough. The next time you see a kid running around out of control, just give him/her a cup of coffee!!!!!!

  3. David Alexander says:

    A constant battle to maintain some equilibrium regarding the raising of kids — the hardest job in the world, by the way. You are never quite sure what you are doing, and the payoff for all your hard work comes years later. There are a lot of submarine parents out there. Simple respect is not that hard to teach, especially if you model that behavior yourself. Kids are always watching, even if we think they are not! It’s the parents who spend more time on their smartphones than paying attention to their kids that drive me up the wall. With all that said, most parents have bounced between the helicopter and the submarine.

    I also have to agree with Patrice — you don’t know what it’s like chasing a 4 year old (or in my case 4 year old twins!) I tell parents the life they lived before that child was born is over, mostly for the better although there are tough times ahead. We parents indulge our non-parent friends, just like we indulge our kids!

    • Patrice says:

      David, well said. Yes, our lives are never the same once we have children. The payoff, in most cases, is far more than we ever imagined. My son is a second year pre-med student at BU. He was a MONSTER as a child and my family worried that he’d be like his father’s family (insensitive, greedy, etc). Gratefully, my son has become more of a man than most men I know, and he’s barely 20. He has always shown respect to others, respects me, respects his elders (unless they prove they do not deserve that respect, and knows that hard work and stamina are the keys to a successful life. He also knows that your family is way more important than your friends. I wasn’t the best mom then, although I’ve grown through the years of experience. Sometimes, we are just so tired that we need the help of others. My take–if you are too tired or too busy to give your children the time they require—you better have someone with values to step in. I am really loving this thread–even if I think the topic is a bit offensive coming from a “free” adult. YOU don’t want to walk in my shoes-and you know that. That is why you chose to be “free”. Don’t judge—-when you point a finger at someone-you’ve got 3 pointing at yourself! 🙂

      • So, now I’m not allowed to complain? Ha! Sorry if my honest distress over negligent parents bothers you, but this is MY blog and I’ll complain about negligent parents, misogynistic morons and toxic friends all I want. I’ll also complain about homophobia, bad advice from friends and sisters who take things too personally.
        Ooops. Did I go too far? 🙂

  4. David Berkowitz says:

    When I went through grammar school and high school there were no courses on how to be a good parent. My teachers covered most everything else from health to occupations but nothing on what is arguably one of the most important topics in most people’s lives. I don’t know if that has changed in any of the school systems around the country but it should. For anyone looking for what I think is the best set of books ever written on the topic try “Between Parent and Child” and “Between Parent and Teenager” By Dr. Haim G. Ginot. These were my bibles that I referred to often when raising my son and daughter.

    • Patrice says:

      David, When my daughter was in high school, they had a program to teach the students a little about raising a child and caring for a child. They learned the basics of caring for a baby—they had a small “daycare” within their day to get a first hand look at how hard a toddler is. Then, they are given a lifelike baby, who requires constant care. They are told that if they cannot care for the baby, they must find someone responsible to do it for them. The software, within the child, shows tif you did what you were supposed to do. Your grade was reflective of your performance. My daughter’s baby kept me up all night (birth control reminder for me), she had to care for that baby as if her own, she had to take the “baby” to school with her, and she had to have someone watch the baby when she worked. She is one of the best moms I know. I believe it’s vital that there be a class for our “teens” to experience something like this. Maybe it will deter them from getting pregnant. I have to admit, it drove me nuts hearing that baby crying all the time. Diaper changes, feeding, holding and rocking, etc……”grandma” was tired as if she had a baby of her own. My daughter did get pregnant and had a baby 2 weeks before graduation. I believe she was well prepared between helping with her younger siblings and spending a week with a lifelike baby. My grandson is an amazing, loving, kind, respectful young man. She did a great job.
      ps she is now a nurse, too!

      • David Berkowitz says:

        Glad to hear there has been some progress in this area. Hope it catches on.

  5. Judy Herring says:

    Told you it was a sensitive issue!!!!!!

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