Friday, March 18, 2011

Grounding the Helicopter

Helicopter parenting, the business of flitting too and fro everywhere the wee one's go, having an ever watchful eye, never letting the children out of our site. We've all seen it - most of us are guilty of it.  Controversy has even found it (remember the woman who gave her kids some money, dropped him off at the subway and said "meet you at home"?).  Helicopter parenting is easy to fully justify, all one has to do is read the news and instant fear for our children's safety settles its hooks deep within.

Sometimes we helicopter because of the age of our children, or their developmental status.  Sometimes we helicopter because we don't like our neighbors, or there has been a scary news story.  Sometimes we helicopter because we simply forgot we had a choice! But mostly we hover because we are afraid of something.  Perhaps we are afraid of the unknown, or afraid of what will happen too our children in our absence.  We might be afraid of what our children will do in our absence, or even fear that another hovering mother-craft will catch us taking a break and wonder what's wrong with us! (because if we truly loved our children, we would be right there with them, protecting them from every single possible opportunity to experience disappointment, a minor injury, interacting with the neighborhood "mean kid", or getting stung by a bee, right? I hover, therefore I love.)

My son is about to turn 8 years old. This week I grounded the helicopter and allowed him and his 5 year old sister to go out and play with neighborhood kids without adult supervision for the very first time.  Grounding this bird is one of the hardest, but most necessary things I've ever done!

I feel like I want to explain the "why"s of my previous hovering, but I'm afraid I'll rev up the engine and have this bird in the air again in no time flat if I think too hard on the why's.  The why's are most likely the same as yours.  They seem to be mostly universal among the hovering-types.

We haven't thrown all caution to the wind.  There are rules.  I prefer if the kids play in groups of 4 or more.  I like the idea of safety in numbers, and if a split is ever necessary to get an adult's help, no child will be left alone, but 3 or more is mostly ok (depending on the age of the oldest in the group).  We don't play in the creek (its dry, but a potential home for rattle snakes, scorpions, and the random hobo.) We don't go inside anybody's home without permission from both sets of parents, and we stay inside the neighborhood, never exiting to the main streets for any reason.

I've discovered that I need to keep my garage door shut if I don't want my food storage rummaged through,  that there are still Eddie Haskel's in every neighborhood, and that boys still like to race bikes, and bikes still go "even faster if you peddle all the way down the hill".  Girls still want to have sleep overs with every new friend (uh, NO!) and are quick to play the victim if they set up a scenario where the boy does exactly what they set him up to do, but they didn't like the results.  There's always a kid that's too little, a kid that's too big, a kid who's bike is broken, and a kid who's hungry.  But best of all, there's always a smile, a laugh, a cheer and a shout when a boy crosses the finish line in precisely .2 seconds less time than the last.

Landing this hover-ific helicopter of a parent has been fabulous.  I haven't heard "mom, I'm bored" all afternoon, two days in a row.  I'll be keeping the copter in good repair. I will fly on the occasional reconnaissance mission just to see what the locals look like, who they're talking too, what they're talking about, etc.  But I think its time to expect the best.  Every adult deserves to have a treasure trove of memories to share at every family gathering that starts with "Remember when?" and ends with "You just can't let your kids do that anymore."


Kristina P. said...

The flip side of the hovering aspect of Helicopter parenting is the enabling aspect, which I think tends to be one of the worst thing a parent can do for an adolescent.

Heather said...

I finally landed my "helicopter" last week and let Kaleb go outside with Marryne and her friends. The biggest rule they have to follow is to stay right by the house, mainly so I can go to a window to check on them! But they do good and I haven't had as much grumbling either!

Jessie Geroux said...

*love* this post...J and I could literally name off our "too young" too old" and "hungry" neighborhood kids so its UNIVERSAL I have been experiencing these same joys this spring break...and have been a practicing hovercraft lander for about a year now...