“Am I a helicopter parent?”
Illustration: Pedro Nekoi
This column was first published by John Paul Brammer ¡Hola Daddy! Newsletter that you can subscribe to on Substack.
I am writing to you because I need guidance. My son recently told me he’s dating him and it sounds like he really likes the young man he told me about. I think that this person might be the first person my son has ever really liked and that makes me very protective because I don’t want him to get hurt.
How can I best support my son while quelling my overprotective impulse to warn him about things that haven’t happened yet? I’m afraid if I don’t shut up I’ll make him paranoid and not allow him to enjoy life. By the way, my son is 29 years old and such a warm, genuine, funny and thoughtful person that I can’t bear the thought of anyone hurting him.
First, I find it endearing that you care so much about the well-being of your adult son. I know some gay guys who would love it if their moms were so interested in their lives and relationships!
I also fully understand the maternal instinct to protect your children from the horrors of this world. My current situation involves a man who has two cats at home and I worry at times that they might slip through a crack in the window. You’re too spoiled to survive on the streets. I’m sure that’s what being a mother is like.
But your son is 29 years old. If somehow he is still unaware of the risks involved in dating adults and the additional risks involved in dating adults Cheerful Dating (god please walk with him through the valley of unsolicited hole photos) now is the perfect time to learn.
When we love someone, we naturally want the best for them. I imagine this is multifaceted for parents and their child. We want to protect them and prepare them as best we can for the challenges we know lie ahead. Challenges we might have wished someone had warned us about when we embarked on a similar path.
But what is special about the above horrors is that they are inevitable and they affect us all. In case you haven’t noticed, living is about persevering, building hope, and having that hope dejectedbut also to be rewarded for it, to find, in the welcome breaks between trials, the warmth and contentment that is also the human experience.
There is nothing you can do to change the fundamental nature of things. But we learn to live by living. Through disappointment and adversity we open ourselves to wisdom and change. We learn how to better equip ourselves for future challenges by stumbling upon current challenges. No amount of hand-holding will change that, and in fact, as you point out, it could only hinder him.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for him, that you can’t cry for him, that you can’t give him advice, or that you can’t tell him how you feel. We have relationships that bring us comfort and mutual support.
However, in your role as a parent, try not to express your fears in controlling or overbearing behavior. It can make him feel like he’s letting you down when he inevitably can’t take your word for it. Let me tell you something about gay men with a crush: You will send this risky text. You will ignore this red flag. They will pretend their Twitter likes are not public. You are dealing with a force of nature here.
Sometimes, HM, loving someone means letting them make their own mistakes.
With much love,
Originally published on March 21, 2023.
This column was first published by John Paul Brammer ¡Hola Daddy! Newsletter that you can subscribe to on Substack. Buy Brammer’s book, ¡Hola Papi!: How to Get Out of a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, Here.