GUEST POST – Helicopter Parents, Toxic Parents, and The Case for Calling Someone an Asshole

Then, the media shames me and calls me names – Sharon Doering.


I am the kind of parent who lets their 7-year-old climb a thirty-foot pine tree but does not allow that same child to watch the latest Spiderman movie. The thing that can kill them? Yeah, I’m okay with that. The physically harmless thing? Nope, I’ll pass.

What am I thinking?

Well, my kid has nightmares. She makes me lay in her bed (sometimes, for hours) until she falls asleep and then wakes me in the middle of the night. Spiderman equals less sleep for me, and sleep is sacred. So, I am a big old meanie when it comes to movies.

I am a strange mix of free-range and micro-managing. And, unfortunately, I have stereotypically treated my children differently. I was too strict with my oldest, too permissive with my youngest. Did I get it just right with my middle child? Magic Eightball says: Hell, no.

Parenting types and anxiety rear their ugly heads in my dark psychological thriller, She Lies Close.

In the story, recently divorced Grace Wright moves her two small children into a new house, hoping to start a new life, longing to reset her crippling insomnia, but finds out she’s moved in next door to the only suspect in the kidnapping of six-year-old Ava Boone. Grace becomes obsessed with her menacing neighbor and the family of the missing little girl, and then a body turns up…

At one point in the novel, it’s late at night, and Grace can’t fall asleep. She sits in bed on her laptop, obsessively reading about missing children, which feeds her worries.

“Late at night, every night since I found out my neighbor is a suspect in the kidnapping of Ava Boone, I experience a disgusting metamorphosis. After Chloe and Wyatt fall asleep and I sprint the block and shower and tuck myself into bed with my laptop, my clean, crisp outer shell crumbles and what emerges is filmy and compulsive.”

After reading news stories, Grace reflects, “The media infects my brain with their parasitic stories. These parasites feast on my love for my children — eating away at my common sense and bloating like worms inside me — and leave me sick with paralyzing fear. Then, the media shames me and calls me names. Helicopter Parent. Toxic Parent. Indulgent Parent. Narcissistic Parent.”

Grace’s character and her worries are extreme, but her behavior is driven from her love for her kids, and that’s relatable.

Trying to be a good parent is hard. Parents could probably use some of that empathy and support that is so good for our kids.

Labeling, in general, isn’t helpful. Name-calling is an easy transition to bullying and simplifying complicated things, treating groups of people as a monolith, and making it easier, quicker, to judge them.

Helicopters, Karens, Snowflakes, Boomers.

If someone is behaving badly, why can’t we just call them an Asshole? It’s still succinct, but it’s less pigeonholing, and it feels a bit more temporary.

I was acting like an asshole yesterday; today, I’m not.

What do you think?

She Lies Close, a psychological thriller, has already gathered strong early praise, with The Sunday Times bestselling author Samantha Downing describing it as a “cracking debut that should be on your 2020 list!” and New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica declaring it as “an explosive, darkly comedic psychological thriller with one of the most memorable protagonists”.

SHE LIES CLOSE is available now in the UK and releases on November 10 in the US and Canada.


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