Helicoptor Parenting: Lessons from Superman

Right from the start, Superman was on fire, looking very much like a certain scene from The Hunger Games.   Indeed, the new depiction of the hero is buff, tough and willing to level all of Metropolis for the chance to snap the bad guy's neck.

As long as his parents approve.

With all due respect to the Reeves, both George and Christopher (students, you'll have to look them up), this may be the best Superman ever.  At least that is the opinion of my wife who couldn't take her eyes off his perfect Super-pectorals.  It isn't kryptonite, however, that humbles this new version of our greatest American hero.  Whether he's Clark Kent or Kal-el, this Millennial Superman has engaged parents.  By engaged, I mean that if you buy into the "helicopter parent" mythos, these are the Boeing Apache Longbows of helicopter parents.

In case you live under a rock, or mistakenly believe that comic books are too low-brow, Superman was sent to Earth as an infant by his father Jor-El, played magnificently  in the movie by Gladiator Russell Crowe.  With Javert like tenacity, this Jor-El lives on past the grave, as did Marlon Brando before him.  While Brando only appears in an Oz-like role to quickly launch Supes on his path, Crowe's Jor-El has a full action figure role.  He battles bad guys at the start and then shows up as a computer program to help Superman out of his first major jam.  In fact, I was surprised I didn't find him in the Daily Planet newsroom, explaining to editor Perry White why his son is so special that he just has to hire him as a full reporter.

Clark getting a full reporter role with almost no experience, of course, makes no sense in the current media economy.  They should have made him a blogger instead of a stringer.

Crowe, however, takes a back seat in over-bearing parenting to Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent.  Unlike the Pa Kents of the past who encourage young Clark to help others no matter the cost, this modern homage to over-protective parenting actually suggests that Superman (Superboy at this point?) should let classmates die to protect his secret identity.  Yes son, you have great power, but your responsibility is to your future career, preferably here on the farm with me where we will save a fortune in farm equipment.

So we have to ask ourselves, do we want to be Jor-El, attempting to pre-program ourselves in the hopes of guiding all future decisions?  Should we follow the Pa Kent model, implying our children are so special as to be more important than their peers?

I firmly believe that there is an active role for parents in the admissions process and beyond.  What’s more, I find that the helicopter designation is far over-blown.  However, I think we can all agree that  among our biggest parenting challenges is deciding when we have crossed the line from mentor and parent to overbearing bully or enabler of limited self-determination.

I suspect that parents too often feel that the admissions process is a lot like this new Superman movie - far too long, with too many explosions and melodrama for the outcome we can already see coming.  Fortunately, as we know, there's going to be a happy ending.  Superman will beat General Zod and students will be admitted to college. Cue the theme music (the John Williams version, please).


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