The Cost of Having Helicopter Parents

I’ve always had a strenuous relationship with my parents, but when I came to New Paltz and I talked with my other friends about their own relationship with their parents … I now realize that my parents were helicopters hovering over a landing zone called “growing up” and their propellers sheltered me by cutting off new experiences from the start. As I’m writing this, there’s two consistent fears in the frontal cortex of my brain: 

One, my parents are obviously going to read this and I will be getting a call that I’m not looking forward to. And two, that I’m over exaggerating or dramatizing my experience because there are always going to be people who have it way worse. 

Individuals should have the opportunity to find themselves as a person, to define themselves, to know what they do and don’t like, to have trials and errors when they are growing up and are not adults yet. I am an adult now, and for the first time in my life, I have the opportunity to find my own self. 

The only other time I had a chance to do this was two years ago during quarantine, more importantly the summer of 2020, where I had a really deep revamp of everything I have ever known about myself and what I want in my life. I finally separated from those who were toxic thorns in my side. I finally came to terms with my sexuality and identity — I even started to take risks with that freedom. 

To put things in perspective, I am the oldest of four children. I don’t doubt that my parents are very protective over their first born, their first daughter no less, knowing what kind of dangers lurk in life’s shadows. I also don’t doubt that they’re clueless as to how to navigate a mostly online and technologically advanced social climate — while also raising four kids in a busy Long Island suburban neighborhood. But to monitor my every move, with the aid of systems like Life360 and Time Screen, since I was 16 … gave me the notion that they don’t trust me enough to venture through life on my own. 

I haven’t given any reason for them not to trust me, considering I was forced to become a second-mother and watch my younger siblings when they were either working or out and about, but still — this really hurt. 

When I turned 18 in July, I thought that they would relinquish this technological prison encasing my phone. It wasn’t until I was in the Student Union Building with my orientation leader, figuring out my roommate situation and the DuoPush fiasco that I finally had enough. Angrily, I texted my father, “can you please turn off the Time Screen? I need to download this app and I cannot wait for your permission anymore. I’m f***ing 18.” 

Side note: Time Screen is a program put in place by parents through the Apple iCloud that helps monitor your child’s app usage. The parental figure has complete control over what apps you are allowed to download and how long you should be on your phone for. 

Need to contact your friends via Snapchat and Instagram? Nope, you already spent two hours on social media apps. Sorry! Want to listen to music after ten o’ clock? Nope, not possible. What if you had to message your own parents about getting a late ride home from work? Guess what? Yeah, not possible. It wouldn’t allow you. You needed a parental pin (aka permission) in order to give you JUST fifteen more minutes to do whatever you had to do. 

This went on for two years.

I know what you all must be thinking: “College must be so liberating for you! You must be having the time of your life! You get to experience so many new things!” 

The strange part is … it’s not. So many people my age are so much cooler than me because I haven’t done anything. My experiences are just starting to happen, while my college friends have already experienced basic-growing-up things. I feel out of the loop. And I hate FOMO. It’s the bane of my existence, my Achilles’ Heel, so to say. 

I don’t know how to experience new things because I’ve been so sheltered. I’ve never had an inch of control in my life, someone held the reins for me. I feel like a fish out of water, suffocating by the potential of space. A confused, young adult trying to balance a brand new life, a growing individualized-self, along with college work and relationships. 

Ever since I left my stuffy, little hometown and shared childhood bedroom, I have been cautious not to upset my parents — even though they are 80 miles away. It’s a constant struggle to make them sound better to my friends. Even now as I write this, I am still hesitating on which words to use. 

When I did leave, I promised to my mother that my location will always be shared. That wasn’t a lie, Life360 is always on. Sometimes I do get calls or text messages questioning where I’m going, but they’ve definitely loosened the reins. Which I’m thankful for, don’t get me wrong, I just wish they’d done it much sooner. 

Now that I’m starting to think about this more and more each day, mostly during spirals at night, because what is college life without a little self-reflection at one in the morning, when you could be out partying or be sleeping? 

My parents bragged about their childhood since before I could write a sentence. My dad has practically done everything under the sun, from piercing his ears to throwing extravagant parties to pool-hopping through his old neighbor’s backyards. I always felt like I had to live up to their “growing up” expectations and experiences. But now that I’m in college, I can’t shake the fact that this is the age to be free. No matter what my parents may think.

About Fynn Haughney 24 Articles
Fynn Haughney is a second-year English major from Long Island, NY. When she’s not writing for The Oracle, she’s creating music playlists for every occasion or watching Game of Thrones. This is her third semester with The Oracle. You can reach her by emailing haughnef1@newpaltz.edu.