Susan Coll

Opinion Editorial
The Washington Post
Helicopter Parenting – Spiraling Out of Control

A recent e-mail from Amazon.com made my heart start racing. My order had been shipped, it said, and "Living Abroad in Costa Rica" would arrive any day. I had never heard of this book. Had someone hacked into my computer? I thought of identity theft, credit card fraud -- and then of my 17-year-old son, who was deep into high school senioritis. He confessed to placing the order, defensively reminding me that I allow him to buy books with impunity as part of a mostly unsuccessful campaign to encourage him to read. He didn't seem to get that my concern had shifted from the $12.74 on my credit card to his college plans for next fall.

After shepherding three kids through demanding schools, countless extracurricular activities and then the Byzantine college admissions process, I feel like I could use a gap year in Costa Rica myself. While the impulse to engage in a world with more urgent concerns than front-loading résumés and fine-tuning test scores is one that in theory I applaud. The irony here, however, is that my mellow, guitar-strumming kid has remained miraculously impervious to the pressure that surrounds him. He's the first to point out that his last years of high school, and the stressful endgame of applying to college, have taken a toll not on him, but on me.

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