Monday, January 19, 2015
How I Became A Helicopter Mom...
Whenever the topic of "Helicopter Moms" comes up, I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable.
It's trendy these days to sneer at the Helicopter Mom.
The thing is, I know that from the outside looking in I absolutely, far more often than not, would answer "hey that's me" to those questions that would cause one to fail the imaginary helicopter-litmus-test that I see being flung here and there and everywhere.
Going to the park is a two person job in our family. I haven't done it on my own since... well... two children ago. When Sadie was three and Maggie was one, and not so very fast or steady, I could do it. I could be everywhere at once, hovering and making sure everyone was safe. I put them in their little red wagon and pulled them to the water park near our home or unleashed them on the almost always empty playground near the law school at Ave Maria and for the most part we were fine.
But now it requires a team effort. We need more than one parent helicoptering around after these small, quick, darting children to make sure that they stay safe.
And failing to be vigilant enough, quick enough, everywhere at once? That's one of my greatest fears. Because I don't just have to be a helicopter parent. I have to be one of the very best helicopter parents. I need to be a Super-Ultra-Helicopter Mom to make sure that Maggie stays safe.
The funny thing is that in some ways, in a controlled environment where there's nothing that can mortally injure a certain daring four year old, I'm pretty laid back. In our yard or at a totally enclosed playground, I can sit and watch her climb way too high on the playground equipment and be totally at ease. I've been watching her climb since shortly after she learned how to walk (she walked across the room on her first birthday... so it's been a while) and she doesn't fall. So when she's climbing I tend not to hover as closely.
The thing is even when she's climbing I need to make sure she's not going to suddenly jump down and take off at a sprint. So, while I might relax a tiny bit, I still tend to hover. And when I'm tired, Paul hovers. We take turns. It's exhausting.
As if the hovering isn't bad enough we have the food allergies too. My diaper bag has a pocket for the inhaler with the spacer and face mask, two epi-pens and a generous supply of Benadryl melts that come with me everywhere I go. And you might see me fling myself on top of a pretzel like I'm protecting her from a live grenade if she happens to come across one that's been dropped at the playground... because I've seen what happens if she eats it and I don't want to live that again.
Not infrequently my friends share those posts that basically describe the Helicopter Mom as a blight upon western civilization. Usually the author of said article gushes about the superiority of Free Range Parenting.
And it kind of feels like a punch in the gut.
I never finish those articles that talk about how much better off my kids would be if I just stepped back and relaxed.
I don't comment and say that relaxing is a luxury, that for some of us the stakes are too high and turning away, glancing in the wrong direction for a second too long could be deadly. I don't point out that when you have a child who runs and runs and runs just to fill that need to fly across the ground, thinking of nothing else, then you innately understand that it's a luxury you can never allow yourself.
Because you know that that child doesn't understand that a moving car is dangerous, or that she won't swim like a mermaid if she plunges into that river, or runs straight into the path of that big kid swinging as high as he can on the swing.
I'm sure that someone will comment and say that "it's different." That "most helicopter parents don't have those reasons that you're talking about. They're just being overprotective."
Yet many do.
If you do find yourself watching "Helicopter Moms" with disdain when your at the park, or the zoo or just walking down the street, then maybe you could do me a favor.
The next time you see a mom hovering, staying close to their child, helping them do something that you assume that child should be able to do on their own at "their age," maybe take a step back and give that mom a break.
Not all disabilities are obvious. And even if the child doesn't have a disability, do we really need to fall back into yet another round of "my way is better than your way."
Isn't that what we'd all like to get away from?
Whether you're a Free range or Helicopter, or whether you find yourself somewhere on the vast expanse in between, I think we can hopefully agree that most moms are just doing the best they can keeping their kids safe and healthy.
And maybe, just maybe, this is one more subject in the aptly named Mommy Wars that we can put to bed.