Hi Guys. Question came on the news. Are you a Helicopter Parent? And it got me thinking. Sometimes I am, and then I think, sometimes I’m not.
Helicopter Parent. You’ve heard it. Many of us it seems are overprotective and controlling. “They say” it can do real harm to our kids maturity and emotional development. And, while I admit I’m no authority on this subject, I for one believe them.
According to many, including Dr. Peter Gray of Boston College, author of Free To Learn – Why Unleashing The Instinct To Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, (not an affiliate) many of today’s parents are over protecting and over controlling their kids, resulting in a generation of college complainers and young adults unable to deal with ‘real life’. Yikes.
It seems many of us parents need to “let them wander, play, fight, struggle, and even get lost and find their own way back home…” so they build confidence, experience the thrill of life, and learn they can handle it. They don’t as many structured activities like camp, after school groups, and organized sports. They need more unstructured play.
Fight? Get lost? Free time? Yes.
Do I hover? Sometimes. I admit it.
But, as a kid myself, I ran all over the ‘hood’, showing up for meals and bedtime (when not in school), and that’s about it. I suffered my share of skinned knees, embarrassments, broken bones, lacerations, bullying, bruised feelings – and they hurt. I also had to fight many of my own battles with school, grades, part-time jobs, friends, irritated adults, etc. But, I also remember the thrill of the freedom, learning what worked and what didn’t, and the fun I had cavorting all over the place alone and with my friends.
And luckily, I’m still here…
But it’s not always that easy today…you and I know only too well it takes a split second for life to be turned upside down…just look at social media threats to our kids alone – yikes. Not to mention stories of severe bullying, car accidents, school performance pressures, kidnappings, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual predators…
I think that’s why I feel just a little nervous when my seven and nine year old boys play in our front yard – wouldn’t it be so much better in our solidly fenced in back – where I can keep closer watch??? What if a stranger tries to grab one of them! Or a bully comes by! Or they fall out of the tree???
Suddenly…I hear the “bupbupbupbupbupbupbupbupbupbupbupbup” of Airwolf’s blades rising on the horizon! (If you don’t know Airwolf – be sure to click on the link – you’ll get the picture).
…but me? I clearly remember roller skating as a young child, around the quad at Wake Forest University (we lived close by), alone…annoying my share of college kids and professors, for hours (remember Xanadu? Really dating myself here..). Boy did I feel free as a bird.
And I never once thought of slipping in the street and getting hit by a car, or snatched by a kidnapper, or worried I’d fall and break open my helmut-less head.
Well I though of it a bit, as my mother coached me to be aware of my surroundings at all times, but I didn’t dwell on it…and neither did she. No helicopter parenting back in those days…
I even remember one time a friend and I worked our way into Wake Chapel finding our way up – to the belfry! I kid you not – we somehow found a way to climb up these back stairs, crawl across beams and cat walks, through little doors, slipping and exploring our way in the dark, until we ended up gazing through the metal vents at the very top of the steeple, at the city of Winston-Salem – with the giant bells directly above our heads!
I was maybe 12? Sorry Mom…but it sure was thrilling! And I made it (phew)! And I made it through other stuff too…stuff we just won’t bother to reflect on here!
Fast forward to today. I have these two, wonderful, boys I would never want anything to happen to! And I struggle every day, like we all do with how much to watch, and how much to let go. I certainly don’t want to be guilty of ‘helicoptering’ to the point of doing unintentional harm aka Dr. Gray.
And believe me, I do doubt myself regularly…I mean, Joseph’s already had stitches. By his EYE. Twice!
One time he practically convulsed as he was strapped to a board at urgent care, covered with a pink paper sheet with just a hole for his eye, and stitched up while jerking and screaming “I’m gonna throw up! I can’t breath! Mommy help meeee!” I definitely could have done without that horrifying experience…and perhaps avoided it altogether – if only I had been watching him more closely walk through my dining room, next to our sharp cornered buffet that I didn’t realize was right at eye height now that he’d grown…
Thankfully, he still lives.
Oh and then there was this summer when Jack gashed his knee open on his first day of overnight camp ever, and got six, shiny, stainless steel, staples shot into his leg, while squeezing the hands of two well meaning counselors he barely knew. I wasn’t there!!!!
Instead, I was in agony, racing for two hours to find the obscurely located community hospital they had taken him to, only to get there and find he’d already gone – back to camp. Oh why had I let him go??? I had a feeling something like this could happen!
But he lived too – and was pretty proud he handled it by himself. Am I crazy? Maybe.
But thankfully, I know it’s not just me. I’m fairly certain you’ve had your share of heart stopping, anguishing situations with your kids…right? And yet, whether by chance, luck, heavenly intervention, or possibly all three, we’ve made it (thank you Lord)! Our kids are tougher (and we’re grey-er or is it gray-er??) for it.
And this is good – right? Not helicoptering.
But what about the times we hear of those kids that don’t make it? What about those? Those stories make me just want to grab the whirly-bird control stick connected to my children and hang on for dear life. It’s why I still sometimes have an overwhelming desire to fix their homework, stave off mean kids, keep them home, and protect them from everything under the sun morning, noon, and night. I know it’s totally unrealistic and somewhat unhealthy – but even so, I find I can at least lean that direction at times. You?
Yep. Raising kids is one tough job. One tough, amazing, fulfilling, exhausting, confusing, anxiety laden, hilarious, rewarding, job. And it’s my favorite – by far. I mean if you can raise a child into a healthy, happy adult – I think you can do anything.
And I confess my kids are in the front yard, climbing trees, and running down the side of the street these days with their friends and not me – just NOT all over town.
And sometimes, they don’t do their homework…GASP!
And for me, that’s within reason. And all of today’s life’s uncertainties, which continually nudge me towards helicopter parenting tendencies…I’m fighting to keep them at bay.
What about you?