Advice To Teachers From An Exhausted Helicopter Mom


I have come to hate Mondays.

I don’t mean dislike or any other vanilla word that is polite. I mean hate, as in filled with a sinking sense of dread and doom – but not for the reasons you might think. I love Mondays when it comes to my work. I love the fresh start with five wonderful full days ahead in which our team can make progress on milestones, complete new projects, land new clients, begin new work. When it comes to work, Mondays are my favorite days.

No, the reason I have come to hate Mondays is because that is the day when my child’s teachers email me a litany of complaints, many of which are leveled with veiled accusations that it is somehow my fault that my child forgot his homework, did a project incorrectly, offered an unwelcome opinion during class or in some other way made their day less than ideal.

It is probably the thing I’ve found is the most difficult when it comes to raising a twice exceptional child – and that is saying a lot. Anyone who has raised a child who has both an exceptionally high IQ and a complement of learning disabilities to boot knows just how many challenges are attached to the role of parenting. The learning curve is massive, especially if you didn’t grow up with similar challenges. Learning how to help your child find news ways to work around challenges while trying desperately to give them opportunities to expand their insatiable hunger for learning is exhausting and overwhelming. Being the bad guy – that’s tough, too, when you’re the one pushing your child to continue struggling with something that has taken them four hours to complete when it took their peers a handful of minutes. And learning how to suck it up and not be hurt when your child takes out their frustration, hurt, anxiety and pain on you – that is a monumental task to take on when one is parenting a child with exceptions. Please don’t get me wrong – it has a plethora of rewards as well, and I wouldn’t want my children any other way than who they are. I love their complexity and creativity and zest for life. I love learning so many new things because of their own growing wealth of knowledge. I love who they are as people. I am just being honest here about the challenges that come with raising children with complex challenges.

But nothing for me has matched the difficulty of having to accept the necessity of taking on the role of the dreaded helicopter parent when I wanted to be nothing of the sort. When it comes to teachers and administrators who are frustrated with the challenges they’re facing because of having your child in their class – the amount of vitriol, anger, accusations, frustration, and sometimes downright ugly comments that are directed at you and sometimes your child? Hearing at home your child recall some of the petty, mean things that teachers say in class in front of peers? It is heartbreaking. It is overwhelming. It hurts. And it resurrects the fiercest anger I’ve felt – one that has to be kept in check so that my child does not bear the brunt of the fallout that would surely come if I let a teacher or administrator know the truth about what I thought.

Part of the agreement that was made during our last marathon of an IEP was that I would send out a group email once a week asking each teacher a series of questions that they would then fill in the blanks and email back. It was hoped that this new communication would allow the teachers more direct access to me and vice versa as we all struggled to find a better system to help my son remember to turn his work in, to do all of his assignments and to stay on top of his classwork.

Instead, what has happened is that those emails have become the permission that each teacher has needed (with exceptions – there are some who have been amazingly patient and supportive) to turn the faucet on full blast with a litany of frustrations and anger that they feel not only towards my son but towards me for somehow failing to be all they expect me to be.

So this is my response that I cannot possibly say to them:

Of course I know my child is more challenging to work with than some of the other children in your class. This does not come as a surprise, seeing as I have been the hands-on parent of this individual for his entire life. You really don’t need to keep saying this as if it will open my eyes to some new discovery. There is a reason he is in special education, and it isn’t because the school can get more money for him if he is. It is because the school system as it is now does not adequately create an equal playing field for him. It is your job as his teacher to do what you can to make it an even playing field so that he can thrive and enjoy learning, whether you have decided you like his personality or not.

I’m sorry his personality isn’t all rainbows and puppies. Well, actually, I’m not. I like him just as he is – a completely open book with the most amazing honest insights I’ve ever seen. I love his purity and his willingness to hear very hard truths without being crushed under the weight of what he has to hear. If I had to hear half of what he did on a daily basis, I would be curled up in a fetal position waiting to die. So maybe you could figure out that not every child in your class needs to be the type that follows the rules without question, that doesn’t ask questions when he feels like something said isn’t correct, that doesn’t challenge your authority when you’re throwing it around like a medicine ball without any respect for the individual you’re targeting.

And lastly, let it go. Seriously. Sometimes just let it go. The kid is brilliant, and he can learn faster than you or me. So if he doesn’t finish an assignment, doesn’t show his work correctly because it came to him in his head because that’s how it works for him … just let it go. Make an exception. It’s ok. The world will not fall apart, and you will not be discovered to be a sham of a teacher if you bend the rules because the rule doesn’t need to apply in this very specific instance. It will actually mean you are a better teacher, a master teacher when you arrive at that understanding.

And to all of the teachers who don’t continually direct their anger and frustration at the parent simply because they’re a safe target, please let me say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know how hard your job is – and that the laws being passed seem bent on making it harder with each passing year. I deeply admire your commitment and your love of teaching. And I am forever in your debt for the peace you’ve allowed me to have, for the respite of anger you’ve given me. It was not lost on me, even if I failed to acknowledge it to you.

So, yes, I’ve come to hate Mondays with a passion. But there is an end in sight. In only a few short weeks, the school year will be finished and I will have three blessed months of peace before I get to meet a new set of teachers. But I’ll dread that tomorrow. I have enough on my plate today. I still haven’t heard from three of his teachers, so I’m not finished dreading today.

Published by Lisa Abeyta

Entrepreneur and passionate foodie.

8 thoughts on “Advice To Teachers From An Exhausted Helicopter Mom

  1. I have a friend who is my age and was the best vet ever, which is how we met. She had her son, who is also a very special person, and has been home schooling him. I have heard some of her struggles. As I read what you wrote I am recalling a story of when they were traveling overseas in a country where smoking was prevalent, and as I recall the story, her son made some comment about “death to smokers.” I am a dogmom and know I would have been dreadful in that circumstance because I would have loved his honesty and probably laughed inappropriately.
    Your letter to the teachers is outstanding. Not only would I send it to them, I would submit it to a national newspaper for publication. Seriously.


  2. I never had a child, so I never knew what that felt like… It must be so frustrating at times. I wish all teachers were better at understanding or communicating with their students and their parents.

    Just a quick story. Back 20 yrs. ago, I was given an art assignment — to draw my hero. The only one who came to mind was Jesus at that time, but I could never finish my drawing for some reason… I can’t remember why, maybe, I was sick. I don’t know. The teacher still passed me and gave me a good grade, but he didn’t have to. I guess he made that exception & let it go. To me, I failed, though, but not to him… Sure, I had the natural ability & gifts of an artist & had showed that many times before, but just hit a sad bad block ~ I suppose. The thing is… I probably didn’t know my hero all too well.

    I eventually finished the piece, but it got damage in moving & I was going to throw it out, when my husband stopped me. He said just repair it. I was freshly diagnosed with a pretty bad case of breast cancer & also, advanced Lyme disease, late stage. My full time job was to survive. I underwent so much sacrificing & suffering & still… If anything the hero who I chose back then ~ became the endless Love that I saw in my husband, my dog, my parents, my family & friends…doctors, nurses, staff, even strangers.

    Then, on a Lyme disease blog ~ they were calling for artists to submit their work who have suffered or are currently suffering with Lyme disease. What’s the coincidence of that???

    I ended up submitting the piece that I dreamed years ago … calling it “Eye Imagine (A World As One)” & it was accepted & showing next month. I just felt the timing was right, especially in my art one can see the blood moons & falling stars…. But, the hardest part of it all ~ is having to write my journey on the disease. I just can’t seem to do it…. seeing double every second of the day for the past two years is frustrating, sure, but I haven’t given up hope to see like I had.

    I think back to that teacher…who hadn’t given up on me. At the time, he gave me a grade that I thought ~ I didn’t deserve, that I wasn’t worthy of, but I guess that’s what you call “The Long View and Love” of Teaching. And I guess that was the lesson of Jesus. Even though, we may think we are never perfect… we are made perfect in his eyes.

    I’ll leave the advice my dad always told me as a kid, “Is that the best you can do? Ok then. Go play & enjoy yourself. Be happy.” That all that mattered to my dad… Not my grades, but my happiness. Best wishes to you & your son!


    1. What a wonderful story! It is amazing the long lasting effects teachers can have on us when they help us believe in ourselves and see something that maybe even we don’t at the time. Good luck with your show – and kudos!


  3. First, let me say that I have an extreme respect for the fact that you don’t go in and blast those teachers right in the face. I have a short temper myself, and it occasionally makes me spew things that I can later reflect on as being incredibly stupid things to say out loud. Therefore I have the utmost respect for someone who is able to bite their tongue and realize that taking out their anger face-to-face is not always the best idea.

    Second, I have the utmost respect for teachers, because I know several of them and their job can be one of the hardest on the planet. That said, I have no respect for teachers who take out their annoyances on kids who are just a little different/slower/faster/overly-precocious/rubbish in a particular course/a know-it-all in a particular course, and so on and so on. Each kid is different, and I hate seeing teachers who act as though every kid should be exactly the same, do their work exactly the same way, react to authority in exactly the same manner, etc. etc.

    Third, your comment about your son not showing his work, and asking the teacher to just “let it go”….it gave me memories of the past that made me twitch. lol I had this one math teacher in the seventh grade – the SEVENTH grade, mind you, not preschool or anything like that – who INSISTED on the use of calculators and writing down every single step of every single question. One day I forgot my calculator, but all we were doing was basic multiplication and division, so I did it manually on paper, skipping steps that I could easily do in my head. I was the FIRST PERSON DONE. And when the teacher noticed this, he came over to see my paper, realized that I didn’t have a calculator, and went off for about ten minutes, at full volume so the entire class could hear, about how I must think that I’m some kind of genius or something for being able to do math without a calculator. I’d never thought a teacher more insane than that particular one. o.O


    1. Ha Ha – love the story about the calculator. There seems to be something in human nature that triggers anger when someone else is better at something. I’ve never understood that.


      1. It’s just one of those funny things about people, I guess. lol I remember being so embarrassed at first, but after the class was over a bunch of my classmates came up to me with comments along the lines of, “What kind of math teacher can’t multiply by hand?” lol


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