What normal parent would be insanely jealous of their own child?! I never expected it and I certainly didn't want it. But there it was: jealousy. As plain as the nose on my face. It all started just after puberty. I was fourteen when Mom first accused me of trying to "be cute" for my own father. Need I add that it wasn't true? But your Mommy is always right, isn't she?
After six years of writing about hot topics in parenting, I have read many studies, talked to countless experts and quoted hundreds of news stories. During that time, my family has grown a collective six feet, and aged from preschoolers and kids to teens and tweens. And I want to be honest when I tell you that despite the thousands of hours I have spent reading and researching parenting, I still have no idea what the hell I am doing.
As a mother, I have struggled with being labelled at times. Even so recently as last week, I denounced myself in conversation with my 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.
I've been reading about helicopter versus free range parenting for years now. They don't get the time or space to explore their neighbourhoods by themselves and learn independence in the process. If there was ever a question about which side I'd take, helicopter or free-range, I'd already long decided to be free-range. But it's not that easy.
While watching a news segment on Helicopter Parents, my daughter turned to me and said "You're not a Helicopter Parent", which was not news to me. She continued "You're more like a Skydive Plane Parent. You push us out and don't look back." She paused and then added "You sometimes give us a parachute."
I am trying to understand why my old, cool friends have gotten so high strung and opinionated after becoming parents. In fact they actually seem to be shells of their past selves. With no energy to do yoga, or write or think about creativity or their dreams because now they are intent on micro-managing their child's every interaction. Am I destined to do the same thing?
Into every childhood there must fall some skinned knees. Some bumps and bruises and yes, maybe even some crutches. The "be carefuls" I hear in the park make my heart sink a bit. When we set our little ones down in the sand, should we check for choking hazards or should we should hand them a shovel and tell them to dig to Middle Earth?
I'm a hoverer. I admit it. I'm coming out of the closet. I'm getting a T-shirt made. In this free-range age, being called a helicopter parent is anything but a compliment. In fact, it seems like supervising your kids and trying to keep them safe and secure is something to be ashamed of. But I'm not. Not at all. Kids are our most precious commodity. We say this, yet we take their well-being so lightly sometimes. The line between fostering independence and ensuring safety is often dangerously blurred today. Yes, in our day we ran around like feral cats till dusk. But these are different times, and I fear that many parents are missing the point and failing to strike the right balance