A style of parenting in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life:
In typical helicopter parenting, a mother or father swoops in at any sign of challenge of discomfort.
My parents were hands off parents, they didn’t micromanage our homework, or attend athletic practices or ever call a teacher or coach to intervene on our behalf. It is one of the traits that I always admired most about them, their ability to remain in the background, our quietest, most constant supporters. I assumed that I would be the same way when I became a parent. I even once almost read a book called, Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). It received incredible reviews on Amazon and when the kids are in college and I have a little more free time, I intend to read it cover to cover.
Unfortunately my visions of free range parenting all but dissipated the day I dropped our oldest son off at preschool.
For the first time I realized that I would not have constant updates about his day, wouldn’t know who he had played with or what he is favorite activity was, and I could almost hear the helicopter taking flight. I decided on the spot that I would quit my job and dedicate myself to volunteering full time in his classroom. It had to happen, I rationalized, as it was the only possible way to see if he ate the fruits and vegetables at snack time and to make sure the bigger kids were nice to him on the playground. As if having your mom on the playground with you has ever in the history of the world made other children want to be your friend.
In my more rational moments it is easy for me to remember that over the next eighteen years or so, I want my children to fail.
I want them to have their heart broken early, so that they enter marriage knowing that relationships sometimes have conflict and often take great effort. I want them to lose a friend or two along the way so that they understand the true value of those who are worth holding on to for twenty or more years. And I want them to realize that there may be some things that they are just not that good at, so that when they do discover their life’s passion they follow it without fear, whatever obstacles may lay in the path.
Luckily for our son, my urge to hover is usually quickly interrupted by his baby brother’s projectile vomit or his little sister’s intense desire to join the street sweeping crew on their weekly rounds. So I chase down our daughter and call the dog for puke clean up, aisle two. And I watch him go, looking both ways before he crosses the street. I know that I will make will make many mistakes as his mother. That I will swing the pendulum from utterly distracted to embarrassingly overprotective. But when I see the pride in his face as he turns to make sure that I am still there, waving crazily at him as he runs to catch up with his friends, I smile and am reminded again that those mistakes must be made with my feet planted firmly on the ground.