BENGALURU : We had animals. We had vehicles. We had farm related terminology. But that’s all in the past. Now, we are in the age of home maintenance parenting. Welcome to the era of the lawnmower parent. Named after the device used for cutting grass, a teacher who wrote an anonymous blog post on the subject defined lawnmower parents as those who ‘will intervene or ‘mow down’ any person or obstacle that stands in the way of them saving their child from any ‘inconvenience, problem or discomfort’.
Why roar like a tiger when you can hum like a lawnmower? Why hover like a helicopter when you purposefully move forward? Why allow your children to run amok and learn for themselves, when you can put them to the side and get the job done for them instead?
I write about lawnmower parenting with a degree of discomfort. Reading the blog post forced me to look back at all the ‘well-intentioned’ things I have done for my children and wonder ‘Am I a lawnmower parent?’ I’m going to have to admit, that yes, there are some moments I’m not proud of. There are homework assignments I have written the questions for by hand.
There’s a dabba or two I may have hand-delivered to the watchman because it had been left by the door in the rush to the bus stop. There have been many urgent e-mails with numerous exclamation marks to teachers, to ‘please remind S to submit his math homework!!!’ and ‘Could you please put the assignment in his bag for him because we all know how forgetful he is!!!!’. There may have been smilies involved. I know. I understand if we’re no longer friends.
It made me wonder, why do I do this? Me, who gives my kids long, eye glazing over in two seconds lectures about how ‘in the real world no one will help you but yourself!!!!’ (No smilies involved.) There’s worry and anxiety – what will happen when the unfinished, unsubmitted tower of homework when it topples over? How will he write board exams, go to college and have a successful life if he can’t even remember his ID card in the morning? There’s a degree of being a know-it-all: ‘Well of course he’s not going to do this on his own. I’ve seen how that turns out!’ And there’s a large chunk of shame: ‘This is a reflection of my poor parenting skils. If it’s my fault, I should be the one to fix it.’
Of course, I know that I’m not really helping my kids at all. That if anything, I am doing them a massive disservice by stepping in even before things go wrong and ‘take care of it’. I am taking away their sense of agency and teaching them that they can’t do things for themselves.
I tell myself that I’m doing these things because they don’t care enough about them to do it on their own. But do they not care because I have taken away that very important sense of ownership.To all of you who have heard the airily delivered ‘I don’t know what homework there is, put it on the WhatsApp group’, it’s time to pull the plug. Let the grass grow tall and wild.