We've all read about them and may know a few of them. Many of us have accused our parents of being one of them. Some of us were correct. In the case of a student in my medical school one year behind me, she was right on the mark when she referred to her mother as a helicopter parent. The mother proved her daughter right.
A twenty-five-year-old woman in the medical school class immediately following mine scored poorly on an exam. She then made the mistake of mentioning the failing test score to her mother, who has in the past has shown a tendency to hover. Her mother first emailed, then telephoned the medical school professor, requesting that her daughter have the opportunity to retake the exam. The professor denied the request. The mother then called the dean, who decined to take her call. Here's the kicker: we, the student's fellow medical school students, would likely have no way of knowing that the student's mother called a medical school professor. The professor might mention the call over drinks with a fellow professor, and he might even share the story with a class a few years down the road, but odds heavily favor the side that he wasn't going to share the information with any of us -- at least not at any time in the near future. And the dean, whom none of us count among our drinking buddies, certainly wasn't going to clue any of us in regarding the hovering parent situation.
So how do we now about it? I heard about it, despite being more than thousand miles away, from my friend and colleague Celinda. Celinda heard about it directly from the horse's mouth, or, more correcty, from the foal's mouth. The second-year medical student was so filled with misplaced pomposity that she actually boasted of her omnipotence by virtue of her mother's willingness to behave like a scorned Harper Valley PTA president whose daughter lost her place on the school's honor roll to the brazen hussy Mrs. Johnson's daughter. At the point when the second-year student boasted of her mother's interference in her life, she actually believed she would get a second chance on the exam.
Medical school, however, is a bit like real life. Sometimes when a person screws up, he or she does not get a second chance. If a physician or surgeon kills a patient, there are no second chances where that patient is concerned. It's probably fitting that medical school should prepare all of us for the real world of medicine by not offering redos on exams. Get it right the first time or forever hold your peace.
Unfortunately for the second-year medical school student, along with not getting a chance to retake the test, she doesn't get to redo her response to having failed the test, nor does her mother. I don't know the student in question particularly well as the two of us have little in common beyond attending the same medical school, but from what Celinda has told me (Celinda has a cousin who is a second-year student at our med school this year and is, thus, privy to such information), the test fail was not an anomaly for the student. The woman has reportedly struggled since entering medical school, and barely survived the cut to be allowed to return this year. She allegedly hid that information from her mother. The bettors at our school have declared even odds regarding the student's survival as a student at our medical school. (Some people would bet on anything under the sun, including but not limited to their own grandmothers' deaths. It's a cold, cruel world.)
This incident has caused me to rethink my past practice of having referred to my own parents as helicopter parents. I mis-applied the term when I used it in reference to them. My parents were Nazi disciplinarians, grammar police, and generally overprotective parents. My parents didn't run in circles in attempt to protect me from the consequences of my actions unless the consequences of my actions posed legitimate safety hazards. I grossly misunderstood the meaning of the term.
Mom and Dad, you were fascists and you were ridiculously overprotective, but you were not helicopter parents.