Baby Jessica rescue: Was it the birth of helicopter parenting?

Baby Jessica rescue: Was it the birth of helicopter parenting?

Video screen capture

When the little girl known as Baby Jessica was pulled from a Texas well 25 years ago, covered in mud and blood, we should well have marked the date not only for celebration but perhaps as the birth date of the helicopter parent. I realized today that it was one of the memory keys that has influenced my parenting.

RELATED: Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz!

The event was one that united the nation as people of all ages, whole families pressed each other for news of Jessica McClure, 18 months, as hundreds of rescuers worked around the clock for almost 59  hours during the national ordeal.

According to the Associated Press, Jessica fell into the well at 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday while playing with two other children in the backyard of the McClures' Midland, Tex.  home.

I remember the workers digging the parallel shaft and flying in oil drilling heavy equipment to try and get her out. I remember them singing to her down that dark shaft and telling her stories and nursery rhymes. I recall some fool college student making the lame and inappropriate joke, “Hope they’re not reading Alice in Wonderland!” as the other students all crowded around the TV in the college newspaper office where I was a news editor.

We learned that when the little one fell, her right leg became wedged alongside her body in the tight space, pushing her foot next to her head.

The details poured out of the television set and I, a journalism major a year from being wed, drank them in and filled my parental reservoir of “What not to do.”

I can trace back every time I checked the yards and parks where my sons visited or played, like some kind of hovering home inspector. I learned, as did everyone who watched and later became a parent, that you can let your imagination get carried away about the dangers, terrors, tragedies, that might be right in your own backyard.

If, heaven forbid a million times, a similar situation were to happen today, there would be a lot more harsh judgement for the mom than there was back during Jessica's saga. Helicopter parents, today would look at each other and say, “Who doesn’t know to check their yard for holes?”

RELATED: Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz!

Parenting pre-Baby Jessica took a lot less helicopter fuel, but for those of us who have learned to balance the borrowed fear from Mrs. McClure to become more vigilant parents, there is cause to remember her sad fall and exhilarating rescue.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.