A Photo Finish for a Helicopter Mom

My husband and I have been surprised throughout my son’s school years when pictures of him have shown up in our newspaper, The Tallahassee Democrat.

There was the “Home Alone”-ish shot of him watching his teachers do a presentation designed to get him excited for standardized testing.

Mom Fail

And the shot from Summer Track in 2008, noting his “shirtless and shoeless” status:
Mom Fail

Photo Credit: Phil Sears, Tallahassee Democrat

You Never Know When Your Shoes Will Matter

As high school graduation day approached for Wayne, I shared this phrase with friends in real life, in Facebook groups, and wherever else I could:

“After this one last detail, I am officially retiring my helicopter rotors.”

What was the big graduation-related detail that I just had to have go my way in order to avoid a “mom fail”? I needed him to have nice shoes. At his convocation ten days prior, I was mortified to see the state of his shoes. (My daughter, who graduated three years ago, was very particular about clothing and shoes, so I had not had a reason to helicopter in for anything related to her graduation ceremonies.)

Immediately after convocation, I told him he needed to get better shoes and that I would pay for them. In the ten days between convocation and graduation, he put some shoes in our Amazon cart that I rejected (they were too expensive and I was pretty sure the only thing he would be wearing these shoes for would be graduation and his any funerals in the near future (we have a relative on hospice care)). I was pro-Amazon because I have a gift card balance but didn’t want to use that much of it on shoes that wouldn’t get worn often.

Once I rejected the Amazon idea, we fell into a pretty typical communication pattern between us. It went something like this, with variations over the ten days:

ME: “You need to get shoes.” Related emotional state: Frustration that it wasn’t getting done, worry about spending more money, annoyance that for the umpteenth time in our parent-child relationship I was carrying the worry-weight of something that didn’t matter to him.

HIM: “Yeah. Okay.” With some variation of “It would be easier on Amazon” or “I’ll get to it” thrown in but no action. His related emotional state: My guess may be wrong, because I’m not him. BUT I’m pretty sure it was heavier on the “will she just stop with the shoes thing?” than on determination to take care of a graduation-related detail and erase one worry off my list.

Graduation Day Dawns

I woke up graduation morning, fretting (still). The shoes had not been bought. He was going to graduate no matter what was on his feet, so as long as the shoes were the “dark” shoes required by the dress code, what did it really matter? Did his ratty shoes really equate to a “mom fail”?

We also had limited time. I needed him home (as he had agreed to be) from noon to 3 because I had plans and we can’t leave my father-in-law alone. After three, it would be almost time to leave for the ceremony. He had a brief period the morning of graduation to do this.

What Happened?

He bought shoes. They are actually shoes he likes, so maybe they will get worn beyond graduation and funerals.

I asked myself multiple times why it really mattered, because out of almost 500 graduates, who would be inspecting his shoes? His diploma would be just as valid no matter what was on his feet.

But, as the Kiger family has learned over the years, you just never know when the local newspaper may take your picture and an entire community (plus all your mom’s friends on Facebook) will see that your shoes did, indeed, look great.

Mom Fail

Photo Credit: Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat

Are the Helicopter Rotors Gone?

Do me a favor and ask me that once his thank you notes are done!

Mom Fail

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat writing prompt, “share a mom fail.”

Mom Fail

27 thoughts on “A Photo Finish for a Helicopter Mom

  1. Paula, An interesting perspective, as usual. Thanks for sharing your “mom fail” worries. (I’ve had some recent “daughter fail” worries myself.) Good luck with the thank you notes! 🙂

  2. I love that picture of him running barefoot & shirtless, Paula! Did I mention I never wore shoes in high school or college?

    My parents tried to convince me; I’m sure they were embarrassed sometimes, but I just didn’t want to wear them. My bare feet became part of my personal brand, especially in college. It’s something that made me stand out from the crowd; I was the only business major wearing cut-off shorts, a tank top, and no shoes. But that image wasn’t all I had created in school. Though my grades weren’t impressive, I sat in front, asked questions, and turned work in. I rarely missed a class for my last couple of semesters, the important ones for my major, and my professors knew who I was. At Colorado State University, that alone was unusual.

    When I was walking my father through the halls of the giant gymnasium, referred to on campus as Moby Gym, toward my graduation ceremony (in December, in Colorado), we ran into three of my professors. After I introduced them to my father, one of them said: “So nice to meet you, Mr. Elkins, we were just betting on whether Sarah would be wearing shoes to cross the stage!” They laughed, I laughed, and to this day I have no idea if my father was cringing or laughing.

    You’re right, there’s a limit to what we can prioritize in terms of control in the lives of our children!

    • What an exceptional (and truly you) story, Sarah! The thing about him running track barefooted way back then was the practical part: tracks in Florida in June are HOT! This post is just one small fragment of all the “my last child is graduating from high school” reflections that have been going through my head. So many thoughts and things to ponder.

  3. I can relate! It wasn’t in the paper, but parents kept sending me pictures of Em posing with her friends at convocation. Much to my dismay, she was wearing a sweater with a gaping hole in the sleeve! I was completely mortified. I’m glad Wayne pulled through for you!

    • Oh no! Smartphones and the ability to photograph EVERYTHING have their downside! Leon did not do a “cap and gown” convocation — nice to get two chances to dress up in all that regalia (note: Wayne probably disagrees!!).

  4. Wow! Congrats on the graduate. I personally think he should have gone shoe-less and sock-less just to bring everything full circle. 😉

    • AH HA HA HA HA HA. It’s funny how things evolve. He is still much less picky about all things wardrobe than I would like BUT has definitely developed specific ideas, at least style-wise (as opposed to ironing, crease-free, laundered) over the years!

  5. I love this! One more time he had his picture in the paper is too funny. His shoes look great, he is a handsome young man. Pat on your back too Mom!!

    • Ha! He went through a whole phase where all he wore were “swimmy” shoes from Walmart (as long as they were blue). It worked out okay – not a big style statement but I was already losing that battle LOL.

  6. This post really brought a smile to my face 🙂 My own children are polar opposites of one another. My daughter is quite the tomboy, does not wear (nor need) makeup, thanks to her deep olive complexion, super-long jet black eyelashes and perfect hair and only wears shoes so as to keep me quiet. Crocs, usually. She HAS plenty, she just doesn’t like them! Her finance thinks it’s cute, lol. My son, on the other hand, is more concerned about his clothes than most girls. Everything always has to be perfect, starched, creased, smelling good and just the right color. He DOES shoes!! He has a pair of everything, “just in case”, and wears out 2-3 pair every year because wearing 2-3 pair a day (as situations change, of course), is not uncommon for him. Who knew shoes were so important? 🙂

    • What a great story! Sounds like your daughter and her fiance’ are definitely good complements to each other! 🙂

    • Well, you know, you’re right. We DO survive. Among the many reasons this kid was put in my life, one was probably to be a daily challenge to keep my priorities straight!

  7. Love the progression of the stories and the multiple appearances in local paper. Apparently being a blogger has slowed down my kids’ progress of multiple appearances in the paper. They had 1 photo 11 years ago. As for their shoes, that’s their dad’s gig. He feels like all is right in the world if the kids have good shoes.

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