Life Deconstructed: Revisiting our favorite Uncle Phil and his comments on helicopter parenting

Life Deconstructed - Maria Jiunta Heck

Since my youngest child has matriculated, he assumes this means he’s advancing toward a life of complete independence and solitude, but with my electricity, food and linens. He’s been frolicking every night this summer, freefalling toward nowhere with a posse of like-minded friends with like-minded agendas.

When I call him, which is often, to play the guessing game of “where-are-you-and-who-are-you-with?” he always queries: “Maria! Have you learned nothing from Dr. Phil?”

I guess not.

For those of you who are new to the Chronicles of Maria, several years ago I was actually a guest on the Dr. Phil Show. My kids throw it out there on the daily.

I’d sent some columns I wrote about various topics to the Dr. Phil staff and before I knew it, I agreed to be on the show. Suffice it to say, this wasn’t going to be an episode about perfectly balanced, mentally stable, non-neurotic mothers. It was a show called “Extreme Mothering.” It featured a multitude of crazy “helicopter” mothers, of which — surprise! — I was one.

A producer first called to pepper me with pre-show questions that were designed to ascertain whether I was of sound mind. Apparently, her wack-o-meter was broken that day. She asked if I was ever in therapy. “Like, physical therapy for a broken foot?” She was silent. I assured her, “No therapy. But honestly, I’m the only person across Pennsylvania and New Jersey who doesn’t think I need some kind of intervention. Heh, heh, heh.”

Awkward silence.

“So, OK, have you ever been on television before?”

“Yes!” I shrieked. “In 10th grade! Key Club! I was on Channel 44 for the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon! I was very camera-friendly, incidentally, until they took my telephone away and escorted me out of the building, because no one told me I wasn’t supposed to make long distance calls on those special phones …”

She sighed. “Do you have any visible tattoos or facial piercings?” I laughed. “No, but, full disclosure, you might be surprised at how my nose resembles a minivan when it’s on a television screen.”

She plowed on. “What do your teeth look like?”

I was, for the first time, stymied.

“My teeth? Well. They’re still all in my mouth, if that’s what you mean. I bleach them, but not as much as I bleach my hair. Why are you asking?”

She explained that sometimes a guest may “misrepresent” the condition of their chompers, and between the interview and the show, teeth have mysteriously rotted and fallen out.

Wow, just wow.

I flew to Los Angeles, taped the show, and jetted back home. What did I learn from Dr. Phil? Nothing, except I was born to have a team of professionals primp my hair, makeup and wardrobe for three hours. It was awesome.

Sigh. Well, he told me things I already knew, but elect daily to ignore:

We train our children their whole lives to grow up and fly away and be successful.

We need to back off and let them land on their rear ends because if they never negotiate failure, how can they gauge success?


All I know is that Dr. Phil was not amused by Maria J. Heck and also, can you find out where my son is, who he is with and what time he will be home?


I hear propellers, do you?

Life Deconstructed

Maria Jiunta Heck

Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life. Send Maria an email at

Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life. Send Maria an email at

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