Helicopter Mom

Once upon a time in a far, far away land called Suburbia USA was a mom who wanted nothing more than for her children to succeed.  She brazenly confronted their teachers, yelled at their coaches, and incessantly hovered over her children, hence earning her the magnificent title of “HELICOPTER MOM”.

Generational demographer Neil Howe wrote that helicopter parenting is the parenting style Baby Boomer parents use in raising Millennial children.  In the bestselling book, Between Parent & Teenager, one teen complained,

  “Mother hovers over me like a helicopter….”

 When I first read that commentary the title of a Todd Rundgren song fluidly swept across my mind Hello…It’s me. That bold and blaring label slapped me across the face.  I was one of those moms.

Was wanting my kids to be successful wrong?  I don’t think so.  What was wrong was that I thought they needed me to make that happen.

Wikipedia: helicopter parents attempt to “ensure their children are on a path to success by paving it for them.”  

I was obsessed with my kid’s lives.  Perhaps it was because I had reached an age where I didn’t think I had a life of my own?  Maybe that’s why I tried so hard to make them need me.  I would have shoved my kids back into the womb if it had been an option.  So instead, I stayed on top of them every second of every day. 

Technology was my greatest tool. The celebrated birth of the cell phone was my best friend, my constant companion.  A University of Georgia professor refers to cell phones as "the world's longest umbilical cord". That’s a perfect analogy.

“Where are you?”……”Who are you with?”….. “Did you do this?  Did you do that?”….”When are you coming home?”.   “Why haven’t you called me?”   I called my kids at least five times a day. Looking back, I could have easily been called a stalker, which ranks just a little higher (or lower) than a helicopter parent.

Thankfully there are lots of things I don’t do anymore.  I’ve replaced many of my old habits with healthy new ones such as setting up boundaries. Boundaries keep me safe.  Boundaries keep me healthy.  Boundaries keep my blood pressure low. But I have not given up hovering. I’m good at it.  I only claim to have stopped doing it to my kids. The players have changed and so has the landscape.

Long before substance use disorder came slithering into my house like a poisonous viper, I spent ridiculous amounts of time hovering over things that I thought were important.  Maybe they were somewhat important at the time but nothing else mattered once that rollercoaster ride of addiction broke loose. Now, it was all about survival.

The past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time hovering over the illness of addiction and the beauty of recovery. It is a terrain I never imagined I would be flying over. I hover over my friends and many others who have lost a child to this illness. I hover over the people on social media groups that long for support or need a caring word or prayer. We’re all here, anyone who has lived through it, hovering and waiting to help.

Being a “has been” helicopter parent to my children has its pros and cons. Without those hovering skills I so carefully honed all those years ago, I could never have navigated my way through my son’s substance use disorder. Please read that sentence again.  I didn’t try to navigate my son.  I learned how to navigate myself.

I don’t mind being compared to a helicopter. Most of the people in the trenches of this ugly battle have the powerful characteristics of the almighty copter, the R-4.  Have you ever heard of it? It’s the one used primarily for search and rescue missions.

At one time, my cousin John was part of a reconnaissance company in the army; he shared a story with me about a particular type of search and rescue mission. The visual comparisons of these missions to what so many parents do every day on this addiction battlefield is striking.

STABO is a term used when a copter hovers on a rescue mission and multiple rope lines are dropped down to the people below. The rescuers dangle together as a team, with their arms and legs intertwined. They are able to swiftly rescue many people at a time while still hovering, without landing.

I’m envisioning parents, support groups, strangers banding together with strength in meetings, the fellowships and parenting groups. Tens of thousands of parents are searching for one another on private social media groups, for support groups, for sober living, for treatment centers, for information!!!!!!!  We are all searching for answers while on the hunt for recovery. We are intertwined searching and rescuing each other as we try to rescue one another’s children from the deadly grasp of addiction. 

Those rescue lines are our new umbilical cord. We drop a rescue line to our children if they are drowning in the dark tumultuous sea of substance use disorder.  But it is essential to remember that we cannot jump in to try and save them. If we did, who would hold the ropes? We would all end up drowning. We can only pray that they want to save themselves and grab on to that line as tight as they can. We have to stay strong in order to support their journey upward.

I spent a lot of time searching for my son in the early days of this disease. Now, I still spend endless hours on the computer searching, gathering, reading and educating myself on addiction and recovery. With new information and options appearing every day, this task of searching never ends.

I knew I could never “rescue” my son.  It took me a while to figure out that the only one I could rescue was myself.

To all of you stealth fighter helicopter parents, remember to take care of yourselves while navigating this turbulent tumultuous flight. Even the strongest and toughest helicopter can vibrate so much that it will shake itself apart. 

Helicopter parents are described as“stealth fighter parents who strike without warning and vigorously in the event of serious issues.”

 I read that EVERY FOUR MINUTES we are losing a child to the disease of addiction.  I’m pretty sure that encompasses the characteristics of a serious issue.

Once upon a time is right now.  Every minute counts.  This is not a fairy tale.  This is reality.


If you are in need of support, compassion and information please visit the public page of a wonderful organization for whom I wrote this blog post for.  This is the link to their public page where you can find private groups to join.  



Anita Devlin


Co-author of S.O.B.E.R.*  …… available on amazon