I can’t say for sure how long ago, but many moons ago, I read an article about “helicopter parents” and thought to myself, those parents are just ridiculous. They obviously need to get a life. Don’t they know that smothering their kids and taking care of their every whim and issue will just serve to incapacitate their sweet darlings?
In case you haven’t heard the term helicopter parent, here’s a quick illustration of what it means:
Well, fast forward a few years, or however long ago it was that I’d first heard the concept, and now I’m starting to feel like I might be turning into one of them. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Let me give you a few examples.
One of our good family friends had her 3rd birthday party this weekend. The party started at 2 p.m. and since my kids didn’t take their normal naps, I suspected their behavior might be a little dicey. All three did end up falling asleep on the drive over but were pretty cranky once we arrived at the party. As we walked into the party, all three were hanging up under us for dear life, refusing to speak to anyone or participate in any of the activities.
I wasn’t having any of that so I pulled each one aside and tried to will some festiveness into their moods. It was a dress-up party so I made sure they put on the party clothes myself (knowing full well that both boys could have easily dressed themselves). Then, I marched them over to where the other kids were sitting and
talked bribed the boys into participating in the games like everyone else.
I was feeling very on top of said situation until I looked around and realized that I was the only adult among the circle of kids. All the other parents (even my own hubbie) were happily sitting on the sidelines watching their little ones from afar—only coming over to take the occasional pictures or console a crying child.
I wish I could say that’s the only incident I have to go on, but there was also my oldest son’s first round of swim classes. I was the mom at the edge of the pool barking out instructions to my four-year old. Put your face in the water. Turn around and pay attention. Make bigger ice cream scoops with your hands. Your kicks aren’t straight. (It’s pretty comical given that I have nary an athletic bone in my body.) It finally dawned on me that I might be getting a bit carried away when:
- I saw that I was usually the only parent at the side of the pool giving orders to my child. Where were all the other parents? Sitting on the sidelines doing nothing more than trying to keep from passing out in the hot Texas heat.
- After every time the swim teacher gave my son new instructions, he started turning to me first before doing anything. In which case, I’d repeat what the teacher said and then he’d do it.
Fortunately, I sensed that my efforts to help my son and the teacher were probably undermining her authority. After a few classes, I eventually backed off and joined the rest of the parents on the sidelines. I can’t say that I kept my mouth shut completely but I did restrain myself as much as I could.
I could give you more examples. Like when I couldn’t keep my mouth quiet during Samuel’s first baseball season. I might have moseyed my way onto the practice field for a pow wow with him a time or two. And let’s say I found myself on the field during actual games when he was being especially inattentive or distinterested–somebody has to snap him back into the game, right? I mean, the coaches can only handle so many kids at a time.
Oh, and that time back at the kids’ play area in our local mall when I almost came to blows with some bad kid’s mom after he pushed down my youngest son. I’d told her a few times that she needed to get her boy after witnessing that hellion push and hit a few other kids. But then he had to go and touch one of my own so I had to hop up and get involved. So what she may not have spoken English. She knew what was going on. Plus, the boys were way too young to fend for themselves, right?
“You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they’ll fly higher. We’re often the ones who hold them down.” — Nancy Gibbs (Time magazine, November 2009)
All jokes aside, my goal is to raise kids that are neither so spoiled nor pampered that they can’t fend for themselves—especially the boys. However, I’m their mom and I don’t like seeing them struggle with much of anything. I want to do whatever I can to help them experience the best in life. I see myself as parent, teacher, protector, guide, etc. So, how does one strike the balance among it all without turning into a ghastly helicopter parent? Luckily, I’m new enough in this parenting journey that I can switch it up if I need to so feed me your suggestions. How do you balance out your parenting M.O.? Be honest, would you say I have the makings of turning into a helicopter parent?
p.s. It’s the 1st day of August, which means the Summer Reading Challenge is officially over. Check back on Friday for my wrap-up post.