Marina to Modesto by Helicopter.

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If you are up well before the sun at 4:50am to get to Modesto for your 13 year-old’s 8:00am travel soccer game, you might be a helicopter parent.

If you passed an all-too-familiar travel baseball complex 30 minutes ago in Manteca, you might be a helicopter parent.

(If you have heard of neither Modesto nor Manteca, breathe a sigh of relief, because you are likely not a helicopter parent, at least not of the Northern California variety.)

Am I a helicopter parent? I just might be.

I don’t complain, not a peep. I’m perfectly happy to set the alarm for 4:50am. I actually open my eyes at 4:40am, momentarily panicked by the lighter-than-expected backyard mostly obscured by the window shade a couple feet from my side of the bed. I navigate the dog toy-strewn carpet to the bathroom in the pitch black. Widening my eyes like a crazy person, thinking somehow this will help me see better. Help me avoid placing my bare foot down on Wailea’s marrow bone.

I have a well-oiled routine, because I’ve done this dozens of times now over the course of the last few years. A tight schedule is committed to memory, and silently running in the background.

Max rousted shortly before 5am. His bag already packed and waiting to be lifted into the Prius with minimal effort. The pajama-clad teenager slides into the backseat, his night’s slumber only interrupted for a couple minutes. Go back to sleep.

The chopper lifts off at 5am, Modesto-bound.

I know where I need to gas up. Right across the street from a Starbucks I know to be open at 5am. A handful of homeless and jet-lagged tourists wait in line with me, briefly, staring blankly at the refrigerated juices. Coffee and breakfast sandwiches — key elements of the early am road trip routine — in-hand, I pop back into the car within 2 minutes.

By 5:06am, I’m gassed up, caffeine-ready, and en route. And ahead of schedule. Waze rewards my military-like precision with a projected 10-minute arrival time cushion before the obligatory 7am show up.

The boy sleeps, snoring loudly enough that I glance back at him, thinking he’s joking. Not joking, just in deep sleep. Sweet dreams.

We pull in to the soccer “complex” — vaguely reminiscent of the maximum security prisons and military grade trucking depots nearby — with plenty of time to spare. And of course that time is already accounted for. Ten minutes is about what it takes for me to jumpstart my teenager, prodding him to finish his cold breakfast sandwich and $4 orange juice (best enjoyed by October 1, 2014). And even allotting him 30 seconds for an anxious search for his missing shinguard, his panic ultimately proving unfounded (as always).

His cleat bottoms touch down on the parking lot pavement at 6:55am. Four-dollar orange juice dangling from his fingers, shuffling towards the complex’s front gate, decked out in his team’s red uniform kit.

Mission Accomplished.

If any of this sounds familiar, you just might be a helicopter parent too.

Thanks for reading.

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