Helicopter Daughter

There are so many terms designated to parents who are overprotective of their children.  We have been labeled controlling, “helicopter parent”, “mama bear” and a new term I just read about…the “lawnmower parent”.  As I have been reading about all these terms I realized that not only do I fall under all these categories as a mother but they also apply to me as my role of a daughter.

flyingwoman1My father was diagnosed with cancer this past summer and the role of father/daughter has changed; not in a bad way but I have become that person-the helicopter daughter, the mama bear, the controlling daughter..OK, I will be honest, the controlling piece may have always been there 🙂

My parents are 67 and 70, and are very independent.  I have a wonderful support system in my 3 brothers and sisters-in-law. I can honestly say that my parents have never needed to rely on us for much, let alone anything.  They work, have a great group of friends and manage their day to day needs on their own.

However, I am not sure what has come over me, but since my father’s diagnosis I have become so protective of him.

My parents are perfectly capable of handling their medical needs on their own specific to my father’s cancer. Between my brothers and I, one of us are always present at medical appointments. For whatever reason I feel the need to shoot off a text, an e-mail or call my parents to make sure they ask a specific question. I know this can be frustrating to them but I can’t stop…if I feel that I cannot relay my message accurately I call one of my brothers and ask them to be the messenger.

If my father is tired, has a cough, runny nose or chills I just want to go over there and care for him-make him tea, get him cozy under his covers and make sure he is eating.  When I call him after I hang up I dissect our call; did he sound tired? Did he sound groggy? Is he happy? Is he sad?  If he sounds great, my day is set, if he sounds crappy, my day goes to the pits….

When my father walks into a room I try not to analyze how he looks; has he lost weight? Does he look pale? Is he tired? But I cannot stop…

Dad, did you take your pills? Dad when is your appointment? Dad..? Dad? Dad? The questions don’t stop.

As I navigate this new normal on my own, I realize that my father seems to be managing his diagnosis better then me.

When I have one on one hulkffquicktime with him I have asked how he is doing, his response is remarkable; “Trish, I have the ability to put stuff like this in the back of my head”.  I always giggle because when he says, “stuff” he is referring to his cancer, his response truly amazes me and I only wish I can do the same. If there is one thing I have learnt since his diagnosis is that he is not strong he is the INCREDIBLE HULK!

 

 

I have read countless articles from the perspective of the patient and family.  I try to listen to all the tips and apply them but sometimes it is hard.  I have come up with my own tips to help me through this “new normal”:

  •  It is better to call my parents then to send an e-mail and/or text as the tone can be misleading and misunderstood
  • When I call my father I don’t ask; “How are you? I ask, “What’s been going on?
  • When my father isn’t feeling well I look at it as an isolated moment and not a new phase
  • When I feel like crap I call my brothers, thankfully we all have our moments at different times so we can be strong for each other
  • I try my best to be a support to my mother and offer a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.
  • Sometimes it is best just to listen as not everyone is looking for an answer or response
  • I have learnt that when I am nervous I can come off a little bitchy; in these situations I have to remove myself from the situation
  • You can have all the resources you need but you will only access them when you are emotionally ready

So, as I navigate this “new normal” I have come to the conclusion that I there are a lot of worse things I can be…then a “helicopter daughter”.

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14 Comments

  • What a tribute you just paid to your entire family!!I think I can say I have known you all for most of your lives and I can only say how lucky you all are to have each other!What lucky parents to know the empathy their children have!How lucky they are to see the love and respect you all have for each other.There is nothing more rewarding to a parent than seeing their kids grow into kind,caring,happy human beings who can depend on each other nomatter what!
    I know all this because I am the parent on the other side of the coin who can smile and be thankful to have the same good fortune!Somehow as the years go by we realize life often throws us curveballs that we need to overcome.At these times we need to thank our lucky stars we have each other to laugh with ,to cry with,even to be silent with.
    Kudos to a great family and don’t stop nudging your parents ,cause I know they really love it!!xoxoxo

  • Hi Trisha,
    I have been there, my mother is a 2x cancer survivor and though she was in her 50’s at the time of diagnosis I was still all over those medical needs and appointments. I don’t think you should label yourself, in my humble opinion you are doing what an adult child should be doing for her parent. It is nature to want to care for them, as they cared for you!
    Stay strong and know that although I am a stranger to you, I am thinking healing thoughts for your father and your entire family. Lean on each other but do what will make it easier for you to deal with this.
    Best Wishes,
    Sherri

  • I’m so sorry that your family is going through This! In one word, it just sucks! I felt exactly the same as you- helicopter daughter to the max, except I had to do it long distance:(
    I do have one more piece of advice having gone throughy my mom’s ordeal with cancer:
    Try to talk to your dad about other things besides his “stuff” and how he is doing. Although I’m sure you know your dad really well- ask to hear more stories about when he was young, really listen to him and his opinions about everything. That alone will Serve as a small comfort to both of you. Best wishes to him and your family!!

    • Thank you very much Jenny for your advice and feedback-it is really hard and I can only imagine how difficult it must of been for you living out of town.
      Thanks,
      Trish

  • This is the norm in only the closest and well adjusted families. Good for you for having this relationship. You couldn’t ask for better given these challenging circumstances.

  • My mother is a 3 time lymphoma, and stem-cell transplant survivor. She lives alone. Primary caregivers must do a juggling act, all the while trying to carry on their own life with a sense of normalcy.

    I facilitate a free support group for caregivers at the JGH Hope and Cope Wellness Center. It’s offered on the second Wednesday evening of each month.

    Anyone interested in attending can call 514-342-8255

  • Thinking of you Trisha! What an amazing story you are telling about your family….. This a a wonderful way of getting strenghth from them….. Your dad sure reminds me of my father what great human beings! Be strong love u Judy

  • Dear dear Trisha,

    I’m very saddened to learn about your father’s cancer diagnosis this past summer. I can’t imagine what you and your family are going through. Yours is such a loving close-knit family and I’m sure your parents cherish how devoted and supportive you are to them. I know from first-hand experience that your professional expertise will serve you well on this unplanned and very personal journey you and your family are now navigating. Every word in your article resonates so clearly with me. You were our rock through my family’s journey and you made the distance feel not quite so far for me. I know with certainty you are the best helicopter daughter any parent could ever hope for! Wear the title with pride.. you earned it! I wish only good things for you and your family and that you all cherish your times together.

    Take care, Esteranne

  • Hi Esteranne,
    So nice to hear your kind words, it is greatly appreciated. It was a pleasure helping you and Lois out, and the devotion you had for your parents was wonderful.
    Wishing you all the best,
    Thanks again,
    Trisha

  • Thank you very much for your kind words. It was a pleasure helping you out and the dedication both you and Lois showed your parents was amazing!
    Thank you again,
    Greatly appreciated,
    Trish