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Please Get Off My Back! (The Perils of Overprotective Parenting)

Please Get Off My Back! (The Perils of Overprotective Parenting)

By Elizabeth Jayne Liu

My daughter collects rocks or anything that bears a strong resemblance to a rock. Polished agate, rough quartz, chunks of concrete, “rocks” that once left someone’s mouth as a chewed wad of gum and hardened over time-every small and dense object has a special place in Cal’s heart.  Sometimes when she is at school, I will root through her rock collection and wipe the ones that look especially dirty with a disinfecting wipe as I silently pray that Cal uses her hand sanitizer before lunch.

I wish this was my only overprotective and neurotic parenting quirk, but it’s not. I don’t allow Cal to check the mailbox after sunset. Multiple times a week, I ask if school is too stressful. It’s always in a gentle manner because I don’t want to stress her out about being stressed out. When she brings home Halloween candy, I check each piece to make sure it’s “safe to eat” after I take my 90% cut as payment for her long and difficult delivery fourteen years ago. I worry a lot that she isn’t drinking enough fluids. Dehydration causes a myriad of side effects. Like death.

Since my own mother was overprotective, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of zealous parenting. It became a source of friction and embarrassment as a teen, and I promised myself that I would be different. Better. Calm. Easygoing. A friend-like companion. Showing restraint would be easy because I would love my daughter much more than my mother ever loved me.

My mother now looks like an absentee parent in comparison. I no longer care about being my daughter’s buddy or being the cool mom that all the other girls envy. Nope. I’m too busy texting her to make sure she has a light sweater in her backpack in case the temperature drops below 70 degrees. Actually, I just prefer she has a sweater at all times. Classrooms can get chilly. Hands that are rubbing together for warmth are not taking notes. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking this through.

I don’t define happiness in terms of money or medals or moments. To me, it’s the absence of discomfort and sadness and pain. I don’t want Cal to understand sadness the way I do. If I’m really honest with myself, I can admit that I don’t want my daughter to know sadness or pain at all.

My hopes are unrealistic, but I can’t help hoping anyway. There are so many factors out of my control. Knowing this makes me extremely unreasonable. I may be the most uptight person I know. And I know a lot of uptight people.

It’s most important to me that Cal never feels like she is fending for herself, which is a feeling I carried for most of my childhood. Even though my mother placed tight boundaries for daily details that didn’t matter, when it came to crisis, she believed in silence and non-action. No child should have to be their own advocate. It’s a mother’s job to voice concern when a problem exists because, really, kids are inexperienced and dumb.  I’m guilty of over-voicing, if there is such a thing.

I want my daughter to know that I have her back. My daughter mostly just wants me to get off her back.

Cal recently asked for more decision-making power. She promised to be responsible and asked for my trust. I realized then that the consequence of my overparenting was Cal believing that I didn’t trust her and that she wasn’t capable of making the best choices for herself. This isn’t the truth at all. My daughter is more mature as a teen than I am sometimes, even now. Of course I trust her. Of course I believe in her. I just don’t trust other people.

But I can’t keep her boxed in forever. It’s been difficult to keep my lips sealed as she leaves the house without a sweater. I try not to interject during carpool if a conversation becomes heated. I am my daughter’s advocate, but she’ll be leaving for college in less than four years, and I want her to understand that her voice is important too. Part of growing up is having the freedom to fall down and pick yourself back up. I just want to be there with a first-aid kit.

Published December 4, 2013. Last updated December 4, 2013.
About the Author

Elizabeth Jayne Liu

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she s...

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she survived, and now records a series of weekly challenges called Monday Dares. She fails a lot.

Elizabeth writes candidly about her former addictions, love of four-letter words, and her affinity for all things rap. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, whom she married after dating for just eighteen days, her 13-year-old daughter, and her complete collection of Yo! MTV Raps Trading Cards.

Connect with Elizabeth on The Huffington Post, Facebook, and Instagram (@flourishinprogress).

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