Confessions of a Closet Hoverer
BY BRENDA DONOGHUE
Closet hovering: the act of pretending not to be a “helicopter parent,” when, in fact, you expend almost all of your mental energy blocking the instinctual urge to interfere. Or obsess. Like a director of your very own movie, relentless fretting and over-analyzing plays out, with some scenes in excruciating detail…but only in your mind.
I’m a classic closet hoverer. I’m not sure if that’s a big secret. In fact, I suspect few will be surprised.
Every “what if” and worst case scenario brews in an almost-constant whirl within my crazy mind. It’s a parallel plane of make-believe parenting that I keep neatly, and expertly, tucked away from public observation. Or, at least I try.
Parenting is hard work. And so is fake parenting.
Fortunately, sanity usually saves me from myself and keeps my neurosis stuffed deep within. I’d like to think I am a master at keeping this at bay. At least, I try like mad to fake parental calm and coolness for the benefit of my kids.
Every urge to inappropriately interfere or show the breadth of my worry is valiantly resisted as I watch them fall and get up again, over and over and over.
This, however, all at the expense of quietly giving myself a nervous breakdown.
If I had any censor whatsoever, I’m sure I would pull this off to perfection and the only casualty would be me.
But, unfortunately for a select few of my “lucky” friends, I can’t keep my “crazy” to myself for long before bursting.
It’s usually only a matter of time before someone is cornered and I sing like a canary about every single scenario, and over-analyze and troubleshoot every appropriate anticipated parental response.
They so enjoy my company. I actually do make a great friend – just don’t invite me to a party.
Somewhere along the lines of “normal” levels of motherhood worry, there is a black hole of anxiety that tempts even the coolest of parents. This hole doesn’t represent the natural interventions that inevitably arise, but, rather, the resulting worrying that goes along with it. It represents the dark side.
The black hole calls for you to over-obsess about even those very real issues – and some imagined, far-fetched potential scenarios. Resist the call. If you jump in, you’ll quickly find that the spiraling array of potential “what ifs” and "if…thens” is endless – and useless.
I unwittingly jumped sometime after my oldest entered the land of school-aged living and I learned that everything I thought I knew and could predict about his school experiences was…wrong. Left with an appalling, and surprising, absence of total control over his well-being, was something that this control freak just couldn’t handle.
At some point I made the deal with the devil. The tempting taunts to play out each issue in a thousand sub- parts, prepare for all potential outcomes – and, thereby, regain some measure of control – became too overpowering to resist.
But, rather than helping to deal with every scenario, that black hole of worry ruthlessly ushered my inner thoughts into the land of out-of-control.
The tricky part here became trying like mad to present the appearance that my anti-hovering ways were simply a natural extension of my “authentic” ultra-calm and cool persona. It is doubtful that I have ever actually pulled this off.
My penchant for worrying goes way back. In fact, “worry” is a pose I have perfected over the years, as evidenced by the deep wrinkle between my eyes, a “worry line” that began forming when I was just a kid. My specialty, worrying about others.
Perhaps I never had a chance against that darn black hole after all.
And, though I haven’t found my way out yet, I’ll be damned if I stop trying. It’s only a matter of time – that calm and cool mom is in there somewhere, just waiting to get out.