​Are You a Helicopter Parent?

Know what the heliocopter parent is?
One who hovers over every action her child makes. She corrects, directs and redefines what the child must do.
Wikipedia defines a helicopter parent as “a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.”

Many would have called me one of those helicopter parents.
And in public I was. Because I am not a trusting person, I did not allow my boys to go to a public bathroom alone. Even when they were older, they had a buddy system.
When we were visiting others, if the boys were riding bikes on a sidewalk (a luxury we didn’t have at home), I watched them as the party continued in the house.
When we went swimming, I did not do anything but count heads and enforce rules, especially in social gatherings when no one else was watching. My diligence saved each of my toddlers who dunked in an instant at our own pond.

Times are different.
I remember as a child walking 10 blocks to the downtown shops with a friend. Or going to an appliance store for empty boxes. We dragged them home with great effort to slide down our Pennsylvania hills.
I remember walking home from school, it was indeed 15 blocks. When it rained, I’d hope my mom would notice to pick us up.
In high school after moving to Indianapolis, walking to school was no longer permitted. In fact, there were no sidewalks, only busy streets and traffic lights without pedestrian crossings.

Instead of allowing kids to walk to school, we have deemed it unsafe. Is that because it is more unsafe, or that we now require buses to take the child those 15 blocks?
And the fences around schools, are they to keep the students inside or the bad people away?
But in that safety, we have lost something.
We have lost that responsibility built into the child to keep walking to school and get there on time.
Maybe those buses relieve the mother’s anxiety, for she is now at work and not at home when the child gets home---to even know when the child gets home.
But I digress on my helicopter parenting.

Why did I watch my children so closely?
Because I don’t trust people. 
I protected my boys from obvious threats—child abduction, drownings, and preventable accidents.
When I visited others, I was surprised at how much their children went unsupervised.
Yet when I heard of bizarre accidents, I was not surprised. Children left to do what they can are very creative and inventive.
Mine included.

My helicopter parenting, not only extended to public dangers, but allowed them to be boys at home with some supervision. 
I had a knife that I kept on my magnetic knife holder for years. It really wasn’t a knife. But a weapon. I found it in the boys’ fort.
They had found the blade in the trash (trash diving?) and had made a handle for it. 

Another time while inspecting their play, I found them digging tunnels in the sand by the dry waterway on our property. They had created quite a network of tunnels. I ran that one by my husband. He too was concerned of collapse and suffocation. Further construction was vetoed. 

Another time they proudly showed me their fort. They had retrieved scrap lumber, old plywood and reused nails. One stood on the roof demonstrating how they could watch for the enemy. I watched in horror as another stood under this sagging roof—happily oblivious to his danger. I corrected them on this ignorance.

As we worked through projects, I helicoptered when they were learning a skill, like using the drill, circular saw and other tools. But left them alone when they mastered them, reminding only of safety glasses and slowing down.

My helicoptering didn’t keep them from doing things, it merely allowed them to do their pursuits safely.
As the older boys grew, my helicoptering withdrew.
The older boys instructed the younger. Their lessons were better received. I was only the mom, after all. 
But my husband reminded me that we can’t let go of the younger ones. We had to keep at the discipline, even when we were tired and had already done this 1,000 times.
This boy needed instruction another time.

I did not want the responsibility of a boy drowning because I wanted a break. Those things with dire consequences, I never delegated to any of my boys.
If I could not achieve obedience, how would they, especially when a life depended upon it?

But somehow my helicopter parenting gave way.
 I was tired. 
I wanted to rest. 
And didn’t the older boys turn out OK?
Couldn’t I trust the younger to do right, after so many reminders? 
I had also started letting go, not holding with such tight reins, not because it was deserved, but because without listening, who wants to be ignored? 

Recently something happened that sent me back to severe helicoptering. 
A visiting child had a history of a certain activity. Hadn’t it happened three times with him before?
Some unusual incidents that day should have caused me concern. 
Why would the visiting child ask such a question? 
But the children were just playing, weren’t they?
I trusted when trust wasn’t warranted from both parties.
Had I been watching, my son wouldn’t have been exposed to the temptation. 
But I didn’t.

Now. I must helicopter even more. Without relief. Parameters made stricter. 
It has changed all play time with any child for him.
It has also taken away privileges that had given him freedom.
It was a severe reminder for my child that actions have consequences.
And to me, that I am not finished parenting. 
Nor will I be for a long time. 

I have never regretted helicoptering. 
Sure it was time consuming, energy sapping, but necessary. 
My boys assure me that they grew up with plenty of adventures.
But I do regret not helicoptering that one time when I could have prevented something by just supervising. 

Parenting. You can’t stop when you are tired.
You can’t rest in past victories.
Keep at it.
You will never regret it.

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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