Everyone knows that so-called “helicopter parents” are prevalent in Brooklyn, and almost suspiciously easy to make fun of. I mean, what’s the deal with strollers right? They seem a little cumbersome for a casual stroll, don’t they? And the kids riding in ’em, they can’t even stroll yet! They don’t even know what the word means!
I digress. The point is, we should actually be applauding and learning from these overbearing breeders, at least according to Atlantic contributor Brink Lindsey, who points out that involved parenting does, of course, lead to college-educated, employed kids in this increasingly stratified workforce. That, and the fact that kids of less hovering parents now have less and less of a chance to be successful in this world. Oh. Well I guess when you put it that way.
Lindsey cites increasingly common statistics about the differences in family structure across racial and economic lines — college-educated (and often white) parents tend to stay married, make more money, spend more time with their kids, and eventually see their kids go off to college and higher-paying careers. Among minority and lower-income families divorce rates continue to climb, income levels have fallen slightly, and in spite of a dramatic recent increase of hours-per-week parents spend with their kids across all demographics, children of high school educated parents are now less likely than they used to be to go on to college themselves.
And, it’s all self-reinforcing, since not only do college degrees generally guarantee higher salaries, but the economy is apparently moving toward an increasingly high demand for so-called “highly skilled” workers with college degrees. “A good case can be made that the main problem with helicopter parents is that there aren’t nearly enough of them,” writes Lindsey.
I’m a little skeptical about this last part, given my own experience trying to find work with a college degree, and, oh, every single trend piece that’s come out in the past three years about young college grads struggling to find any work whatsoever. But, I buy that it’s getting even worse out there without one, and Lindsey’s points about the hallmarks of a privileged, “over-parented” childhood — ability to schedule, plan, and delay gratification due to a packed activities schedule, early exposure to a wider vocabulary, positive reinforcement — teaching them valuable skills for the work force, all make a lot of sense.
So, white-knuckling parents of the world, I guess you win, we’ll all lay off. But KNOW THIS! If you stay in a bar while the 5-year-old who you brought into the bar is throwing a tantrum, the world is still, watching, waiting, judging, side-eyeing. Our lame parenting jokes may be dormant, but they are by no means gone.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.