You know that term, ‘helicopter parent?’ I think the person who coined it was sitting in a park one day watching me with my kids and thought, “Look at that crazy woman hovering around those poor kids. She looks like a helicopter. What a fabulous analogy – I’m gonna use that!”
I am that parent. The one who stands anxiously around the playground equipment shouting, “be careful”, “look where you’re going!” and “hold on with BOTH HANDS!” It takes everything in my being not to jump up and climb around with them.
The thing is, I am genuinely terrified of something happening to them. Seeing as I’m using the park as an example, let’s continue with that. Apart from being as boring as shit for adults, parks can be dangerous places. They could fall off an exposed edge and break their arm, or worse. Some dickhead could bring a vicious dog in. What if there was a discarded syringe hidden in the bark? These things probably wouldn’t happen but the problem is, they could.
I have been an anxious, excitable, nervy and let’s face it, often irrational, person my whole life. My thought pendulum definitely swings towards the worst-case scenario most of the time. As my kids are getting older, something frightening is coming to light. I think that although my intentions have come from a good place, my pursuit to protect them has seen me do them a massive disservice. They are now afraid of everything.
When I say they are “afraid of everything,” I am being pretty damn literal. My six-year-old son is TERRIFIED of flies, mosquitos, even those teeny tiny flying little black dot-like things. Whenever he sees one – and God help us if one gets in the car – he screams and does the move I call ‘shitscared ninja’ where your arms and legs are ready to fight but flailing around in terror. Like when you walk through a spider web. When he was a little younger, he used to be frightened whenever he saw an errand piece of fluff on the floorboards and would run to one of us in a panic, asking whether it was dead. Trying to explain to him that the fluff had never actually been alive was difficult.
The media seems saturated with stories that easily shake us up. Attempted abductions, crazy drivers on the roads and perverted pigs preying on the innocence of children. I can’t tear my thoughts away from the fact that something awful could happen to my child – and once the damage is done, there’s no undoing it. Where do you draw the line so that you are not perpetually living in fear?
I think that although my intentions have come from a good place, my pursuit to protect them has seen me do them a massive disservice.
Being so anxious is exhausting me and in many ways, impairing them. I am trying really hard to peel off the rotar blades of my helicopter one by one, but finding the midpoint between giving them enough space to explore and wrapping them up in bubble wrap is tricky.
The only way out is for me to take a deep breath and try – in the calmest way possible – to teach them the skills I think they’ll need to be as safe as possible. I’ll continue to tell them to look both ways when crossing the road, to be wary of strangers and protective of their private parts. But maybe next time we’re at the park, I’ll stand back a little further and encourage them to climb, instead of hurling messages of caution from the sidelines. But I’ll be sure to have a bag full of first aid supplies. Just in case.
Speaking of the park, watch this hilarious clip of Offspring’s Eddie Perfect talking about the hell that is pushing your kid on the swing….
Are you more a laid back or helicopter parent?