Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm not a Helicopter Mom; I'm a Sherpa

Sir Edmund Hillary, Colonel John Hunt, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay at Mount Everest.

Everyone loves to hate Helicopter Parents: the ones who grab all the Easter eggs at the egg hunt to guarantee their child doesn't walk away without finding one; the mother who calls her grown child's employer to negotiate a better salary on his behalf; the mom who wipes her kid's butt long after she's capable of doing it herself.  We mock parents who shield their children from any of life's challenges, preventing their kids from learning how to handle problems on their own.

When you're a special needs parent, it's easy to look like you're helicoptering, even if you're not. I want my kid to snap his own pants, but so far he lacks the hand strength to do it, so I am forced to help. He works on this with his Occupational Therapist at school and with me at home, but he still can't pinch the snap closed. So I make him go through the motions of snapping, and then I get in there and close the snap.

To the untrained eye I might look like a Helicopter Mom, but I like to think of myself as a Sherpa Mom.

Sir Edmund Hillary gets all the glory for being the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest, but he never would have gotten there without Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, providing the expertise gained on his seven previous expeditions on Everest.

A Helicopter Mom follows her child around the playground to prevent him from climbing anything dangerous and scraping his knee. A Sherpa Mom watches her child at the playground so she can step in if he has been playing by himself too long and needs encouragement to interact with other kids.

A Helicopter Mom brushes her child's teeth for him. A Sherpa Mom puts the toothbrush in her son's hand and holds her hand over his to show him how to brush his own teeth properly.

A Helicopter Mom speaks for her child. A Sherpa Mom models appropriate language so her child can learn to speak for himself.

A Helicopter Mom flies her child to the top of Mount Everest. A Sherpa Mom carries the oxygen and warms the soup so her child can climb to the top on his own.


  1. Love love love! I'm always paranoid about looking like a helicopter Mom. I think I'll start using this term for myself now.

  2. Libked this on my FB. Perfectly stated <3


Keep it civil, people.