Hell-Bent Against Helicopter Parenting
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
For as long as I can remember, I knew that, if I ever became a parent, I didn't want to be a "helicopter parent," one who hovers over her child at every turn. That serves no purpose other than to stifle your kids' independence. I appreciated that my parents let me learn some things the hard way and they let me live my life, all while remaining involved parents. I believe I am who I am today partially because I was given the opportunity to do things myself and to experience failing.
Well, here I am. I'm a parent. And I am already fighting every urge to keep my baby safe in a bubble so nothing bad happens to her and so she never fails. I know that's wrong and I know it's impossible, but it feels more natural than I thought it would. However, I drop her off at daycare and do not worry about her for a single minute (other than the fact that she's not the biggest fan of sleeping there). I know she's in great hands. And I can tell by the smile on her face every morning as she struggles to get out of her car seat so she can play with her buddies that she loves it, too. By the same token, it is a scary, scary world and she will always need protecting. The hardest part, of course, is knowing that I won't be able to protect her from EVERYTHING. I have friends who lost their 15-month-old son to a drunk driver. (You can read about it here. And here is the foundation they set up in his memory.) And no one other than the drunk driver was being irresponsible. After the accident, the story made world news and everyone was mourning with them. Their pain became all the more real to me after I had my baby. I already couldn't imagine what they were going through, but I can imagine that a lot of parents put themselves in their shoes and could almost feel their agony and devastation. I also know people who have lost their babies in utero at 35 weeks. That is also agonizing and absolutely devastating. I recognize that you can only be so cautious and there are things that are just out of your control. I realize there is only so much I can do, and that's tough to accept. When I was pregnant, I loved the feeling of having my little tucked safely away in my womb where (theoretically) nothing bad would happen. But when I occasionally worried about whether something would go wrong during my pregnancy, I had to remind myself that all I could do was take care of myself and the rest was out of my hands. That brought me a lot of comfort. And the same should apply to how my husband and I raise her. All we can really do is our best and the rest is out of our hands. Of course, that is easier said than done. Now she's here and I'm starting to recall all the terrible things that have happened to kids during my lifetime and I'm terrified of them happening to her. How do you balance these feelings? You have to be vigilant, always, but you are also tasked with the responsibility of teaching your child good life skills so he or she will know how to make the best decisions. I'm not talking about the little things, like eating something off the ground or falling off a jungle gym; I'm talking how to avoid being the daughter in "Taken."
But, I'll tell ya, it's tough at this point. I mean, every single time I think about someone watching my baby, I think, " will this person know not to leave plastic bags lying around? What about toys she can choke on? Will this person know not to leave her on a bed or couch unattended? What about strapping her into her car seat properly?" Believe me: I know I'm not the first mother who ever existed, but I bet there are lots of mothers who would feel the way I feel, even though our parents didn't do half the things we all worry about and we survived. I get it. But we also know more now, and with that knowledge comes more worry. At least for me. I imagine it will be a constant battle for the rest of my life. Especially since I'm the kind of person who likes to do things herself rather than trust others to do them. I'm not a control freak, exactly, but I'm definitely an "I'll just do it myself if I want it done correctly" person. I tend to overthink things and try to work out every possible scenario in my head so I have a solution before the potential issue occurs. That practice is oddly soothing to me. I think this means parenting is going to be tough for me. :) It's not just protecting my baby from being hurt that I'll have to balance; I'll also have to make sure I let her do things herself and let her fail at things. It's part of life. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that failure builds character (I know I did not come up with this concept myself). So it's NECESSARY. It's just hard, already, with just an 8-month-old baby, to conceive of doing. I've been reading a couple of articles this morning about Mike Trout, outfielder for the Anaheim Angels (I can't get on the "Los Angeles Angels" train), who signed a 12-year extension with the team. Anyhow, I read about how his dad, who coached baseball and was a minor-league player for some years, kind of stayed out of Mike's baseball playing, other than encouraging and supporting him. He didn't hover and tell him "do it this way" or "you'll get better results by doing this." He didn't try to interfere with Mike's actual coaches. I respect that a lot, but it seems like it would be so difficult to do! I'm already mentally preparing myself for when I really just have to be hands off or when I have to bite my tongue REALLY hard, like I know my mom did (and continues to do).
For a short period, I was a "lurking in the shadows" member of a parenting group on Facebook, but I had to leave it because there was a lot of fear-mongering and it was making me crazy. Almost literally. There is enough scary stuff out there--stuff that didn't really bother me, other than on a superficial level, until I had my daughter. This where it's important to remember that news highlights the extraordinary stuff, not the "business as usual stuff." Same with the millions of articles on Google. I found so much helpful stuff by Googling when my baby was just born, but some of the other stuff can really be detrimental to your mental health. All you can do is take whatever necessary precautions you can take. That's it. That's reality. Just like with raising her vegan. All I can do is teach our daughter why we don't eat animals and teach her how to make smart decisions. Beyond that, all we can do is make sure everyone knows this is what we're doing and it's not negotiable. It does not matter whether her teachers or our friends or family agree with our decision. The rest is just trust. Trust that our girl will make the right decisions and trust that others will respect our lifestyle.
In sum, parenting has already been such a humbling experience. I love my baby more than I ever imagined I could love another human being, and there have been times I really thought I wasn't cut out to be a mom because of all the worry and stress I knew would come with it. Of course I love being a mom; I just have to keep checking in with myself and make sure my thoughts and actions are healthy. Am I doing too much? Am I being ridiculous? Should I be doing more? Am I being ridiculous?
How do you all find the best balance?