Have you (or one of your mom friends) ever:
- Picked younger, meeker and agreeable play dates for your child, so that your child’s feelings wouldn’t get hurt, and that he/she would have the pick of the toys and win all the games?
- Defined “helping with homework” to include making sure every answer is correct; completed assignments for your child; or practiced their handwriting style just in case they have an eagle-eye teacher?
- Held your child back a year so that he wouldn’t be the youngest or smallest, but rather one of the biggest and brightest?
- Emailed your child’s teacher or coach asking for a make-up, extra credit or more playing time?
- Helped your child with his college application by filling it out and/or writing his personal essay?
If you answered yes to any one of these, then you (or your friend) may have just earned a new moniker: the lawnmower parent.
Unlike the hovering helicopter parent of the early 2000s, who constantly fixed, pandered and anticipated every need of the child, or the infamous tiger parent of 2010s, who demanded servitude and excellence, the lawnmower parent simply steps in to clear a perfect path so that their child won’t encounter any rough patches or obstacles.
From preschool to college, and in some instances, jobs, parents can’t help themselves from smoothing or mowing over anything that might prevent their child from a perfect situation.
At first glance, the lawnmower parent doesn’t seem that bad.
They’re not constantly annoying their child with their own anxiety-provoked needs, nor are they demanding the world and ignoring their child’s wants.
Instead, the lawnmower parent tirelessly works behind the scenes trying to make it seem as if their child is earning and learning everything on their own. Their motivation isn’t success a’ la the Tiger Mom. They simply play concierge to their kids 24/7 because they don’t want their children to feel the pain of failure, the sting of rejection or the agony of struggle.
Why do I know all this?
Why did I come up with more qualifying examples than necessary for you to get the message?
Because even before there was a label for it, I was a lawnmower parent — or at least I had those tendencies.
While, I never picked play dates based on personality types, I'm sorry to say I have over-checked homework and delivered forgotten lunches and assignments far too many times.
But now as a mom of a seventh grader, I’ve realized I’ve got to stop.
And, I'm not stopping because an article I read that said this type of parenting would create children lacking confidence and problem-solving skills.
I backed off because my daughter called me on it. In between her rants of saying I was annoying, she told me she wanted to learn from her own mistakes. She also explained that things I considered to be sad, bad or problems weren't necessarily sad, bad or problems to her.
“You worry way too much,” she told me. “Just do your thing. I can figure things out, and if I need something, I’ll let you know. And, please don’t be one of those moms. It’s so embarrassing.”
Yes, one of those moms — one who overprotects, overcompensates, overindulges all in the name of motherly love.