I have just paid a bill for quesadillas, Greek salad and the 'so-worth-it' charges for that sweet slice of luscious raspberry pie. It is 6:00 in the evening, and I am thinking to myself, as I close the restaurant door behind me- of all I have to do, of all I have waiting for me at home. This supper with two friends after work was a welcome reprieve from the busyness of my life. From the hectic chaos that is our home at suppertime. But my thoughts are now on home and those precious five that await me.
I wonder what they're all up to?
I head out toward my van and make my way toward the corner, taking a right onto the main street in our little town. I drive about two minutes down the road when I happen to see on the left-hand side, two young bikers waiting to cross the road. Mentally, I judge them to be about my two youngest daughter's ages while I simultaneously wonder to myself why they are out on their own without a parent's watchful eye.
As I pass by, I can see the youngest of the two starting to move out into the street. I watch momentarily as he does indeed leave the curb and then makes his way onto the street. I am just passing by in my vehicle as he starts out onto the road, so I do not immediately notice that a truck directly behind me is heading straight into his path. All I am thinking is about is the relief that this child is still waiting by the curbside as I go by.
The Young Biker doesn't seem to be noticing a whole lot going on around him either and thus appears to fail to notice this detail of the oncoming truck as well. As I move ahead, I continue to watch in my side-view mirror this oblivious child- hoping beyond hope that he will stop and do what I as a mother have taught my children and still reinforce almost every time we ride bikes together: to look both ways and do so TWICE before crossing. He does neither.
Instead, I am horrified to see that not only is he continuing to move into the busy street, but the truck which was approaching is nearly upon him. And then, I see it just as it happens. Something no one would ever want to witness. A squeal of tires and a child located directly in front of tires. Fortunately in this case, a near-miss. The little boy, lucky enough to have avoided being sideswiped or worse, is just in front of the truck which has slammed on its brakes and come to a sudden and diagonal stop in the middle of the road.
"Oh Jesus, Jesus..." I start to pray. I watch helplessly as the truck remains motionless for what seems like an eternity as the boy crosses over to the other side. Narrowly missing what he might never fully understand could have been a fatal end. And I wonder what private hell that truck driver has just missed enduring as well. What panic he is experiencing even at this moment, having just avoided the most tragic of possibilities.
This one moment in many moments: it is a defining one. A make or break point in time where eternity pauses for the briefest of seconds to take stock and then breathe again. Do we ever fully understand how much we've been given? Does it make any difference at all?
As a mother, I have struggled with being labelled at times. Even so recently as last week, I denounced myself in conversation with Husband as being a helicopter parent, feeling defensive about my level of involvement in our children's lives. As a mom, I find myself consistently teaching, mentoring, coaching and loving our Four. Constantly called on to balance love with the exercise of limited and short-supplied patience. And at times, I might come across as a helicopter parent: maybe to my off-spring and maybe to others looking in. But the way I see it, these children are all I've got. To Husband and I, they are our one shot at this parenting gig. We are never going to get to do this over again, never going to get a re-test or do-over. And whether or not it is easy to stay the course, hanging in there when life gets tough and frustrating as it often can be with four children ranging from elementary to middle school is not the point. This is our life. These are our kids. And we have no other alternative than to give them our very best.
Our hearts demand this. This is the path we're on.
Helicopter parents are often given a bad rap. Kate Bayless at Parents says that some parents viewed as having helicopter-characteristics tend to worry more than the average parent about "the world in general" which "can push parents toward taking more control over their child's life in an attempt to protect them." She quotes Dr. Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D as saying that "worry can drive parents to take control in the belief that they can keep their child from ever being hurt or disappointed." But it is often a fine line for parents as to what constitutes the point of becoming a helicopter parent and what is just good-old-fashioned being involved. Last night, when I saw two children out on a busy street without a parent to keep a watchful eye- protecting and mentoring and modelling and guiding these two children in safe bike practices, I thought of my own four who sometimes find their old mom a little over-protective. A little overbearing about bike safety and responsibility. And I would have to say that if this constitutes being labelled a helicopter parent, sign me up. I would travel for my kids to the sky and beyond if that was needed.
Maybe that's why they call it helicopter parenting.
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