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.
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.
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?”
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.
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